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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Venezuela Oil Hopes

MOSCOW (AP) -- The Foreign Ministry on Sunday urged Venezuelans to seek a peaceful, democratic solution to their political unrest, while a Russian oil executive expressed hope that deposed President Hugo Chavez's return would keep oil prices high.

"We speak out for the urgent return of constitutional order on the basis of democratic principles and a law-based state," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said Sunday on state-controlled ORT television.

Meanwhile, Sergei Borisov, head of the influential Russian Fuel Association lobbying group, expressed hope that Chavez' return to power on Sunday would keep oil prices high, Ekho Moskvy radio reported.

Reserves Not Secret

MOSCOW (MT) -- The reserves of oil fields offered for tenders will be published and will not be protected by the state secret status, a Natural Resources Ministry official said Friday.

Earlier this month Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov signed a regulation making oil and some rare metals reserves a state secret. However, Deputy Natural Resources Minister Ivan Glumov said the regulation is only applicable to aggregated data on oil bearing "regions or the country as whole," Interfax reported.

Thus the resources of a particular field remain an open and accessible information, Glumov said.

Gazprom Eurobonds

MOSCOW (MT) -- Gazprom has placed five-year Eurobonds with a face value of $500 million, the gas monopoly's press service said Friday.

The Eurobonds have a coupon of 9.125 percent and were placed by a syndicate of Russian and foreign banks. The lead managers were Credit Suisse First Boston and Schroder Salomon Smith Barney.

Proceeds from the Eurobond issue will go toward the further development of the Zapolyarnoye gas field, the construction of a compressor station and servicing Russia's gas distribution system.

Industrial Output Up

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Industrial output picked up again in March after slowing in February and also rose year on year, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref told a ministry hearing Friday.

"We made preliminary calculations on industrial output growth in March and it turned out that output rose by about 2 percentage points compared to February and 3.7 percentage points compared to March last year," Gref said. "This is good news."

Gref's remarks back up government promises that economic growth would pick up toward the end of the first quarter after a flat spell in late 2001 that spilled over into this year.

PM: WTO a Priority

MOSCOW (MT) -- World Trade Organization membership is a top priority for Russia and would be an important factor in the nation's ability to expand its presence on foreign markets, Interfax reported Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov as saying Friday.

Opening an expanded session of the collegium of Economic Development and Trade Ministry, Kasyanov also said that as the Commonwealth of Independent States accounts for 20 percent of Russia's trade turnover, it remains "our traditional trade market."

U.S. Steel Talks

MOSCOW (MT) -- Russia's steel exports will be high on the agenda for Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref's trip to the United States, which began Sunday, Interfax reported his first deputy as saying Friday.

It would also be under discussion at the Organization for Economic Development and Trade meeting in Paris on April 18-19, Maxim Medvedkov said.

"In both cases Russia will seek an opportunity to place its steel on foreign markets," he said.

Ukraine Tax Deal

KIEV (AP) -- The Ukrainian government has agreed with Russia on a package of reciprocal tax concessions for 2002 worth nearly $400 million, Itar-Tass reported Friday.

Industrial Policy Minister Vasily Gureyev confirmed Ukrainian exports valued at $187 million and Russian exports worth $204 million will be exempt from customs duties and value-added taxes this year, Itar-Tass reported.

This is one of the first signs of loosening trade tensions between the two powers that, as recently as March, slapped a spate of duties on each other's imports.

Telecom Consolidation

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- The Anti-Monopoly Ministry has approved the consolidation of nine local telecom companies in the Northwest Federal District, national telecom holding Svyazinvest said in a statement Friday.

Svyazinvest holds 38 percent stakes in all nine merged companies.

The telecoms are expected to form a single company, called Northwest Telecom, through consolidation on the basis of Petersburg Telephone Network, a fixed-line telecom services provider in St. Petersburg, at the beginning of 2003.

The ministry, however, stipulated that several conditions be met: The hub telecom must ensure equal opportunities in providing telecommunications services in the federal district; allow unrestricted access to its network to all telecom operators regardless of their affiliation with Northwest Telecom; and upgrade and develop the networks, including those in remote and rural areas.

ABN Rosy on Yukos

LONDON (Reuters) -- Investment bank ABN Amro said Friday it initiated coverage of No. 2 oil producer Yukos with a "buy" recommendation, rating it as a "top pick" in emerging markets.

"Yukos is the most profitable Russian oil company with high growth prospects, tight costs, and a solid balance sheet," ABN said in a note.

Ruble Firms

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- The ruble firmed against the dollar Friday in official trade but was stable on the interbank market as banks clamored for the national currency to make obligatory payments, dealers said.

The ruble edged up in early official trade to a weighted average for settlement of 31.1734 to the dollar from 31.1982 Thursday.

For the Record

Russia's foreign trade surplus dropped 18.9 percent in February to $2.684, down from $3.309 billion in January, Interfax reported the Central Bank as saying Friday. (MT)

The Agriculture Ministry forecasts a gross grain harvest of 75 million tons this year, Interfax reported Friday. (Reuters)

The board of long-distance monopoly Rostelecom set a 2001 dividend of 0.2144961 rubles ($0.006) per ordinary and 0.9195237 rubles per preference share, Rostelecom said Friday. (Reuters)

Tax collection in May will plunge due to the extensive holiday, the Tax Ministry said Friday. (MT)

Seaborne exports of oil products rose 4.8 percent in March to 1.575 million barrels per day from 1.50 million bpd in February, leading industry analyst Conrad Gerber of consultancy Petrologistics said Friday. (Reuters)