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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Beltransgaz Law Passed

MOSCOW (MT) -- The Belarussian parliament on Wednesday lifted a law limiting the privatization of gas company Beltransgaz, Interfax reported.

According to the new version of the law on state-owned property, Belarus can privatize gas supply units, gas distribution stations and underground natural gas reserves owned by Beltransgaz.

The privatization of Beltransgaz was stipulated in an agreement between Belarus and Russia on cooperation in the gas sector, First Deputy Energy Minister Eduard Tovpenets said.

Under the agreement, a joint gas transportation company is to be created before July 1, 2003, together with Russia's Gazprom, he said.

Bank Quota Gone

MOSCOW (MT) -- The Central Bank said Wednesday that it had removed the limit on foreign participation in the banking system.

The limit on participation of foreign capital in the banking system had been 12 percent of total charter capital.

No TotalFinaElf Buys

PARIS (Reuters) -- French energy giant TotalFinaElf said Tuesday it was not in talks to buy stakes in Russian oil firms, preferring for now to form joint ventures to develop its interests in the country.

"There are no negotiations, no discussions," TotalFinaElf chief financial officer Robert Castaigne said when asked about recent speculation that the group might be interested in shareholdings in Yukos and LUKoil.

Inflation to Reach 2%?

MOSCOW (MT) -- Inflation could eventually fall to between 1 percent and 2 percent per year, Interfax reported Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin as saying Wednesday.

The government plans to reduce inflation from 18.6 percent to 14 percent this year, after which it would fall by 2 percent to 3 percent per year, he said. After several years inflation should reach 1 percent to 2 percent per year.

RusAl Buys Into Plant

MOSCOW (MT) -- Russian Aluminum, or RusAl, announced Wednesday that it had acquired a 32 percent stake in the Karelia-based Nadvoitsk Aluminium Plant.

The plant is the eighth-largest smelter in the country and is 65 percent-owned by the SUAL Holding, the country's No. 2 aluminum holding.

RusAl plans to negotiate joint management with SUAL by December.

Nadvoitsk produced 72,300 metric tons of primary aluminum in 2001.

Russia Pulls Out

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) -- Russia has agreed to withdraw from a $1.3 billion joint venture to build Vietnam's first oil refinery, an official news report said Wednesday.

State-owned PetroVietnam chairman Pham Quang Du told the National Assembly on Wednesday that Russian leaders had agreed to quit the refinery venture, the Vietnam News Agency reported.

Du said the two sides, holding equal stakes, had been unable to reach agreement on the acquisition of modern technology and equipment for the plant.

The Russian partner, Zarubezhneft, had reportedly wanted to provide the plant with outdated Russian technology.

Ilim Restructuring

ST. PETERSBURG (Prime-Tass) -- St. Petersburg-based timber holding Ilim Pulp Enterprise plans to present completed reorganization plans to shareholders by April 2003, the holding's chief managing director, Mikhail Moshaishvili, said Wednesday.

The reorganization, uniting all the holding's companies into a single structure, would be completed in 2004, he said.

The structure would be divided into four united entities including processors of lumber and wood products, pulp and paper producers, industrial packagers and producers of packaging material, Moshaishvili said.

"We intend to enter further into the wood-processing sector by maximizing the production capacity of our wood-processing companies and by creating new enterprises," he said.

$154M Siloviye Deal

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- Major power-engineering holding Siloviye Mashiny has signed a $154 million contract to provide equipment to construct a co-generation plant in the Kaliningrad region with Unified Energy Systems and the plant's builder, Siloviye Mashiny said Wednesday.

The plant is being built by Kaliningrad TETS-2T and will be financed from federal and local budgets and UES investments.

The first stage of the power plant is scheduled to be launched in late 2005.

Rating Decision

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- International ratings agency Moody's will decide by Dec. 20 whether to upgrade Russia's sovereign credit, Moody's vice president Jonathan Schiffer said Wednesday.

"The decision will be made by the [rating] committee roughly by mid-December, and there could be an upgrade by one or two notches, but the decision could be also to leave it unchanged," he said. Schiffer declined to forecast any decision.

Moody's in October placed the foreign currency ceilings for bonds and bank deposits on review for possible upgrade.

Capitalization Rise

MOSCOW (MT) -- Stock market capitalization must rise five to seven times by 2005 and reach $500 billion, Interfax reported Alexander Zakharov, general director of the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange, as saying Wednesday.

Zakharov said the level of capitalization of the stock markets of developed countries was comparable to or exceeded gross domestic product. If the stock market does not reach $500 million, it will remain "a mere appendage" of the economy, he said.

Copper Field Questions

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia may decide to tender a license to develop its huge Udokan copper deposit by the end of the year, the country's second-largest producer, Urals Mining and Metals Co., said Wednesday.

"I believe that in the nearest future, if not in November then in December, a decision will be taken," UMMC chief executive Andrei Kozitsin told a news conference.

The state could rule on the tender of the license until the end of the year, he said.

Udokan, situated in the eastern Siberian Chita region, is estimated to hold around 20 million metric tons of copper.

Kozitsin said that government ministries were currently divided over whether to sell the license at an auction open to foreign investors or via a closed tender.

UMMC, which considers Udokan a strategic reserve, is against its sale to foreigners.

"No country in the world will give its strategic deposits of copper or other metals to foreigners," Kozitsin said, saying he expected UMMC to win the license if it was sold via a closed tender.

Gazprom Bond Launch

MOSCOW (MT) -- Gazprom has successfully launched a domestic bond issue worth 5 billion rubles ($160 million), selling the whole lot at 99.13 percent of face value.

The demand for the bonds was 9.1 billion rubles, or 180 percent of the nominal value of the debt paper issue, the natural gas monopoly said in a statement Tuesday.

The issue was the biggest ruble-denominated bond issue in Russian history.

Coupon payments are set at 7.5 percent of the nominal price, to be paid every six months for three years until maturity.

For the Record

Russia will export 12 million tons of grain this year, Interfax reported Arkady Zlochevsky, president of the Russian Grain Union, as saying Wednesday. Last year Russia exported about 6 million tons of grain. (MT)

Total wage arrears to state and private employees amounted to 35.813 billion rubles ($1.12 billion) as of Nov. 1, an increase of 1.1 percent, or 387 million rubles, over October, the State Statistics Committee said Wednesday. (Prime-Tass)

Smolensk-based Kristall, the country's largest diamond manufacturer, exported $220 million worth of diamonds in the first 10 months of 2002, a 29.4 percent year-on-year increase, Interfax reported the company's press service as saying Wednesday. (MT)