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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Rail Cargo Boom

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- Railways' revenues from cargo transport rose 30.7 percent year on year to 84.6 billion rubles ($2.71 billion) in the first quarter, the Railways Ministry said Saturday.

Meanwhile, revenues from passenger transport rose 38.5 percent year on year to 8.2 billion rubles in the quarter, the ministry said in a report.

The railways saw a profit of 20.4 billion rubles from cargo, while it lost 11.8 billion rubles from passenger transport, the report said. The ministry declined to give comparative figures for 2000.

Slavneft Probe

MOSCOW (MT) -- The Audit Chamber handed over documents on an audit into oil company Slavneft to the economic crime police on Saturday, Interfax reported auditor Mikhail Beskhmelnitsin as saying.

Yury Sukhanov, vice president of the Russian-Belarussian oil company, is not mentioned in the documents, Beskhmelnitsin said. Recent reports in the press accusing Sukhanov of corruption are unfounded, he said.

The Audit Chamber, the State Duma's budgetary watchdog, began a probe into Slavneft in 2000 to look into the oil company's use of federal property.

Slavneft's board of directors at an extraordinary meeting last week approved candidates for president. The Property Ministry, which holds 55.27 percent of Slavneft, nominated Sukhanov as the government's candidate, and the Belarussian Economics Ministry nominated Rosneft vice president Anatoly Baransky.

An extraordinary shareholders meeting has been scheduled for May 13. Acting president Mikhail Gutseriyev is expected to be ousted at the meeting.

Bouygues Exits

MOSCOW (Vedomosti) -- French construction giant Bouygues Batiment has left a project to build the Federal Kremlin Complex at 5 Red Square, presidential property department head Vladimir Kozhin said last week.

"It hasn't worked out with Bouygues," Kozhin said, adding that negotiations were under way with other companies.

Bouygues had won the tender to act as general investor in the project last year. The project was expected to cost about $160 million and cover 55,000 square meters.

Chocolate Binge

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Average per capita chocolate consumption is expected to jump to 3.1 kilograms next year from 2.2 kilograms this year, Swiss-based food giant Nestl? said Friday.

"An increase in chocolate consumption reflects a general rise in the quality of life," Nestl? said a copy of the report.

Despite the significant rise, per capita chocolate consumption in Russia is still significantly lower than that in most developed countries. Average chocolate consumption in Switzerland is 12 kilograms per year, 10 kilograms in Belgium and Germany and 7 kilograms in France, Nestl? said.

MTS Eyes Expansion

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- The president of Sistema Telekom, a top shareholder in No. 1 cellular operator Mobile TeleSystems, said MTS could use privatizations in Ukraine, Bulgaria and Moldova to expand abroad.

"Ukrtelekom will soon be privatized. We will take part in the privatization," Sistema Telekom president Alexander Goncharuk said in an interview with Vedomosti published Friday.

"The privatization of BTC [Bulgaria's state telecoms monopoly] is going on. The privatization of Moldtelekom [a Moldovan operator] is starting," he said.

"Since these processes are going on, we are weighing our chances, our competitive advantages and our financial resources. Where we consider it possible and necessary, we step in."

Goncharuk did not clarify whether MTS would participate in the auctions directly or whether Sistema would be the bidder.

"Any cellular assets that we acquire are acquired for MTS," Goncharuk said.

OPEC Flies In, Out

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- OPEC Secretary-General Ali Rodriguez paid a whistle-stop visit Saturday but failed to secure any public commitment that Russia would hold on to export curbs.

A high-ranking source in the Energy Ministry said Rodriguez arrived in Moscow on Saturday morning, met Energy Minister Igor Yusufov and left for Vienna shortly afterward.

"The oil export limits were not on the agenda because Russia has not made any decision so far," the source said. "We only discussed the cooperation between Russia and OPEC in light of Rodriguez's possible decision to leave OPEC to become head of Venezuela's state oil company [Petroleos de Venezuela in Caracas].

"We also discussed the bilateral cooperation between the two producers," the source said.

He declined to comment further.

Noise Ban Reprieve

MOSCOW (MT) -- Spain will give Russia a reprieve on a European Union ban on noisy aircraft and allow noncompliant planes to land in some airports over the May holidays, Interfax reported Friday.

After concluding talks with Russia's civil aviation authorities last week in Madrid, Spain said it would accept 15 flights on the Il-86 aircraft to relieve tension on the local airline market.

Access for the Il-86 will still be denied in Barcelona, Madrid and Palma de Mallorca. After the holiday period, the ban will come back in place.

WTO Bid 'Up to Russia'

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said Friday it was up to Russia to determine how quickly it becomes a member of the World Trade Organization.

In a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Zoellick said a recent WTO report on where Russia stands in its bid to join the trade body showed "a lot of gaps, a lot of things that need to be done."

Zoellick said Russia needed to pass domestic reform legislation dealing with a variety of issues, including intellectual property rights, customs facilitation, food safety and animal and plant health standards.

"The Russians say that they're moving. Obviously, we've got to see the results," he said.

New KamAZ Chief

MOSCOW (MT) -- Tatarstan's Economics and Industry Minister Sergei Kogogin was voted general director of carmaker KamAZ on Friday at a board meeting, the company said in a statement.

Kogogin replaces Ivan Kostin, who said he is leaving the post after being offered a position at another company.

Analysts say the management change could be a government initiative to increase its influence over KamAZ and are skeptical of Kogogin's qualifications as a manager.

Saturday Trade Thin

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Shares closed narrowly lower in thin trade Saturday as investors squared their books ahead of the long May holiday.

Financial markets, which normally are closed on the weekend, were open Saturday due to the upcoming May Day and Orthodox Easter holidays from May 1 to 5.

The RTS index closed down 1.06 percent at 389.760 on turnover of $11 million in the absence of foreign investors.

Benchmark Unified Energy Systems closed 0.76 percent lower at $0.1568. Oil majors LUKoil and Yukos closed down 0.22 percent at $17.91 and 1.91 percent at $9.750, respectively.