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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

EU Steel Tariffs



MOSCOW (MT) -- The European Commission announced Tuesday that it will introduce protective duties of 15 percent to 26 percent on 15 steel products as of April 3, Interfax reported an official of the European Commission in Russia as saying.

The tariffs, which will last for 200 days, will apply to Russia only after total steel imports have exceeded the 1.2 million ton quota agreed to by both sides earlier this month.




Ukraine Upgraded



MOSCOW (MT) -- International rating agency Fitch Ratings has upgraded Ukraine's long-term local and foreign currency debt rating to B from B-, Interfax reported Tuesday.

The outlook for the rating is stable, Fitch said in a press release. Fitch has affirmed Ukraine's short-term foreign currency rating at B.




Serbia Gas Warning



BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (Reuters) -- Serbian state-owned oil and gas monopoly Naftna Industrija Srbije on Tuesday urged natural gas consumers to pay their bills or face cuts in deliveries.

"If we do not pay $23 million to Gazprom by Friday, our Russian partner will halt its gas deliveries to Serbia," an NIS official said.

Gazprom is Serbia's sole gas supplier under a deal signed during the rule of Slobodan Milosevic. The company has halted gas deliveries to Serbia in the past over unpaid bills.

Serbian reformers, who ousted Milosevic in October 2000 when NIS's accumulated debt to Gazprom stood at $262 million, insist on paying new gas bills regularly.

To help cash-starved industry pay for used gas, the government has reduced the price for companies to 8.5 dinars ($0.125) per cubic meter, which leaves NIS without any profit. The move has failed to improve collection.

"There is no compromise with Gazprom on bill payments," the official said, explaining that NIS had to pay for received gas every two weeks. "Gazprom will simply halt supply if we do not pay," the official added.




Troika Oil, Gas Shift



MOSCOW (Vedomosti) -- With the arrival of new oil and gas analyst Steven Allen, Troika Dialog announced it is revising its recommendations on six oil and gas majors.

Troika radically changed its recommendation on LUKoil, Sibneft and Surgutneftegaz. The company changed its recommendation to "sell" from "buy" in regard to Sibneft and vice-versa for Surgutneftegaz.

Troika also revised its target price downward for LUKoil and Tatneft and upward for the other four companies: Yukos, Sibneft, Surgutneftegaz and Gazprom. LUKoil's target price dropped from $22.55 to $13.5.




RSPP Pension Protest



MOSCOW (MT) -- The influential Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, or RSPP, and State Duma deputies sent a letter to President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday protesting the state of pension reform.

The letter accused the State Pension Fund and sympathetic Duma deputies of "torpedoing the passage of laws on the accumulative principles of financing pensions" and creating a government monopoly, the State Pension Fund, to control all types of pensions.

At stake is the fate of the accumulative portion of state pensions, which was introduced as of Jan. 1, 2002, as the first step in transforming the current pay-as-you-go system to an investment-based system. The laws on how to invest the accumulated portion, however, have yet to be passed.

The accumulative fund is expected to grow to $35 million to $40 million in 2002.




8 Million Mobile Users



MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- The number of mobile-phone users in Russia has exceeded 8 million, having grown by 200,000 since the beginning of the year, First Deputy Communications Minister Yury Pavlenko said Tuesday.

Subscriber growth had exceeded earlier expectations, Pavlenko said at the Mobile Systems 2002 business forum, but he did not elaborate. He did not provide any forecast of the number of mobile clients in Russia by the end of this year.

The number of mobile users in Russia rose 131 percent during 2001 to 7.8 million.




MTS Tops 3 Million



MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- Leading cellular operator Mobile TeleSystems' subscriber base has reached 3 million, MTS said Tuesday.

MTS' GSM network operates in 29 Russian regions and covers 42.3 percent of the country's population.

Mikhail Smirnov, president of MTS, said in a statement the company is preparing to extend its network to another 17 regions in the near future.

"We are delighted that we have managed to retain a high customer base growth rate in the increasingly competitive Russian mobile market," he said.




Multon Milk Buy



MOSCOW (Vedomosti) -- Companies affiliated with No.2 juice maker Multon have acquired a 48 percent stake in the Ochakovo dairy plant following an additional share issue late last year.

The companies that acquired the 48 percent stake for a total of $630,000 are controlled by the owners of Multon, Dmity Korzhev and Dmitry Troitsky, both of whom own 38 percent each in the St. Petersburg-based company.

Executive director Alexander Kritsky said the purchase was a decision by the company's owners and had no relation to Multon.




Ruble Firms 2 Kopeks



MOSCOW (Reuters) -- The ruble firmed Tuesday on sustained demand generated by end-of-quarter book closing, and dealers said they expected the currency to trade marginally lower during forthcoming sessions.

The ruble rose in official early trade to a weighted average for today settlement of 31.1353 to the dollar from 31.1510 Monday, when it saw the largest daily fall since lawmakers approved Sergei Ignatyev as head of the Central Bank.

Based on the results of the official session, the Central Bank set the next-day ruble rate at 31.1353 to the dollar.




Mongolia Debt Deal



MOSCOW (MT) -- Mongolia is ready to pay 60 percent of its current debt to Russia in cash, Interfax reported First Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Dmitry Sukhoparov as saying Tuesday.

"The matter involves about $6 million. As for the remaining 40 percent of the debt, about $4 million, Mongolia intends to clear it by supplies of goods," he said in Hanoi. Mongolia's overall current debt to Russia is about $10.3 million.




For the Record



Aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska said Tuesday his Siberian Aluminum industrial group plans to begin investing in new sectors including insurance, mining, forestry and energy, and by 2003 or 2004 may float shares in its holdings on international markets. (MT)

The Siberian-Urals Aluminum Co., the country's No. 2 aluminum producer, received an 18-month, $50 million syndicated loan from International Moscow Bank. (MT)

Dairy and meat output increased 14.8 percent year on year in the January to February period, the State Statistics Committee reported Tuesday. (Prime-Tass)

Mid-sized insurance firm Progress Insurance Group said Tuesday it had insured the key Omsk refinery of No. 5 oil major Sibneft for $2.5 billion. (Reuters)