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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Trade Surplus Drops

MOSCOW (MT) -- Russia's foreign trade surplus fell 33.3 percent year on year in January to $3.4 billion, Prime-Tass reported a source in the Economic Development and Trade Ministry as saying Tuesday.

Exports declined 19.3 percent year on year in January to $6.7 billion, while imports increased 3.1 percent to $3.3 billion.

Exports to countries outside the Commonwealth of Independent States fell 22.2 percent year on year to $5.6 billion, while imports from non-CIS countries rose 9.1 percent to $2.4 billion.

Exports to CIS countries were unchanged at $1.1 billion, while imports from CIS countries fell 10 percent year on year to $900 million.

January GDP Rises 3%

MOSCOW (MT) -- Russia's gross domestic product rose 3.3 percent year on year in January, Prime-Tass reported a source in the Economic Development and Trade Ministry as saying Tuesday.

Industrial output for January 2002 rose 2.2 percent year on year, the source said, declining to give absolute figures. Investments rose 5 percent year on year in January 2002.

The ministry said earlier that GDP in January 2001 was 582.6 billion rubles ($18.9 billion).

'Surgut Profit Plunges'

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia's fourth-largest oil producer, Surgutneftegaz, will post a 2001 net profit to Russian accounting standards 40 percent below last year's figure, a source within the company said Tuesday.

Surgut made a net profit of 19.5 billion rubles ($360 million) in 2000.

"In 2001, net profit will be down 40 percent compared with 2000 because of the drop in the price of oil," the source said.

Officials at Surgut would not comment on the figure, saying the board of directors would discuss the issue Friday.

The source also said the 2001 dividend payment would fall by around 40 percent. In 2001, Surgut paid 0.04 rubles per ordinary share and 0.18 per preferred share.

Export Tariff Boost?

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia may increase the crude oil export tariff to $9 per ton from the current $8 from April, a source close to the federal Commission for Protective Measures in Foreign Trade said Tuesday.

He said the government panel was scheduled to meet early next week to discuss setting the new tariff rate. "It is likely that the tariff will be raised slightly," the source said.

Russia sets the crude tariff every two months, pegging it to the price of the Russian Urals blend. The current tariff was set from Feb. 1.

The source said that the Urals price averaged $18.5 to $18.6 per barrel in January and February, which corresponds to a tariff rate slightly above $8.9 per ton.

"There are still some days left until the end of February, and therefore one cannot now give the average figure with absolute precision," the source said.

"But the commission is likely to ignore the decimals [setting a rounded tariff rate]."

Crude Orders Cut

MOSCOW (Vedomosti) -- Finnish energy company Fortum has cut its crude oil orders from the Baltic Pipeline System 85 percent due to high levels of sulfur entering the system in the Udmurtia and Bashkortostan republics, Fortum vice president Kimmo Raikhkomo said Monday.

Fortum was the first client to buy crude delivered from the system, which was completed in December.

In January, the Finnish company purchased 300,000 tons of crude delivered by the pipeline at the port of Primorsk, or one-third of total output. This month, Fortum's orders will have fallen to a mere 45,000 tons, Raikhkomo said.

High levels of sulfur mean the crude is more expensive to process on delivery to Finland, he said.

Svyazinvest Upbeat

MOSCOW (MT) -- State telecoms holding Svyazinvest forecasts that revenue will rise 27 percent year on year to $3.3 billion in 2002, Prime-Tass reported Svyazinvest general director Valery Yashin as saying Tuesday.

He said the company's revenue was $2.6 billion last year.

Yashin also said investment is expected to rise to $1 billion from $700 million in 2001. He did not provide any other figures.

Yashin said that the government will sell a 25 percent minus one share in Svyazinvest only when the company's capitalization reaches $15 billion.

Svyazinvest's current capitalization is $5 billion, he said.

Smuggled Seafood

MOSCOW (MT) -- Russia lost an estimated $5 billion to $7 billion last year as a result of Russian fishermen smuggling seafood to Japan, Itar-Tass reported sources as saying Tuesday.

The comments came after Japan's coast guard announced that it was going to toughen inspections of Russian fishing boats shipping their goods to Japan.

Recently, the Japanese coast guard and the Russian Federal Border Service reached an agreement to boost cooperation in fighting seafood smuggling.

Samaraenergo Meeting

MOSCOW (Vedomosti) -- An offshore company linked to metals giant Siberian Aluminum, or SibAl, has called an extraordinary meeting at the Samaraenergo utility scheduled for March, Samaraenergo said last week.

The shareholders are to vote on amending the Samara-based utility's charter.

A shareholder must have at least 10 percent of a company's shares to call an extraordinary meeting. The offshore, Quaterhouse Investments Ltd., recently may have acquired a 10 percent stake in Samaraenergo.

SibAl is one of Samaraenergo's main clients. The metals group owns the Samara Metals Factory as well as the Aviakor aircraft manufacturing plant.

"We are not seeing the interests of a financial investor, but an investor that is hoping to protect itself from growing energy tariffs," said Mikhail Seleznov, an analyst with United Financial Group.

MNB Profit Falls

MOSCOW (MT) -- Moscow Narodny Bank, the British-based subsidiary of the Central Bank, said Tuesday that after-tax profits fell 44.6 percent year on year to ?30.1 million ($46.8 million) in 2001, Prime-Tass reported.

Last year, the bank posted after-tax profits of ?54.4 million.

"The bank was also able to raise $142 million from the international capital markets during the course of the year," the bank said in a statement.

Telephone Tariff Hike?

MOSCOW (MT) -- The government may boost telephone tariffs in late April or early May, Prime-Tass reported Deputy Communications Minister Yury Pavlenko as saying Tuesday.

Pavlenko did not provide any details of the expected rate increase.

The rates are usually increased two or three times a year to adjust for inflation. The previous increase was implemented in late 2001.

Pavlenko said the current rates cover only about 80 percent of costs for fixed-line services.

Local fixed-line telephone rates are kept at below-cost levels and are subsidized, partly at the expense of long-distance telephone services revenues of national provider Rostelecom.

Alcohol Output Up

MOSCOW (MT) -- Rather than the usual post-New Year's lull, alcohol production in January rose 16.7 percent year on year to 10.4 million decaliters, the National Alcohol Association said Tuesday, citing State Statistics Committee data.

Production of grape wines in January increased 4.2 percent to 1.8 million decaliters.

MFK Outlook Revised

MOSCOW (MT) -- Standard & Poor's has revised it outlook on MFK bank to positive from stable following the announcement that MFK will merge with sister bank Rosbank, S&P said in a press release Tuesday.

MFK and Rosbank are both members of Interros group, which includes metals giant Norilsk Nickel.

Standard & Poor's affirmed its CCC- long-term and C short-term counter-party credit ratings on the bank.

For the Record

Aeroflot signed a memorandum on integration with Belarussian flagship carrier Belavia on Tuesday, Aeroflot said in a statement. The airlines will work together to integrate their routes, tariffs and ticket bookings. (MT)

The main railway station in Rostov-on-Don had its electricity cut off because of the railroad's power debts, Interfax reported station chief Vasily Yakovenko as saying Tuesday. (MT)