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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

GDP Up 3.7%

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Gross domestic product rose 0.7 percent in April compared with March and was 3.7 percent higher in year-on-year terms, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said Friday.

"Growth was very high in March," Gref said. "Growth cannot be maintained at such high levels."

He did not mention March GDP levels. The State Statistics Committee only calculates GDP on a quarterly basis.

In April, Gref announced statistics data that did not coincide with calculations by the State Statistics Committee.

Trade Surplus Down

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- Russia's foreign trade surplus in January-March totaled $9.827 billion, compared to $14.231 billion in the same period of 2001, the State Statistics Committee reported Friday.

Russia's exports declined 13 percent year on year in the first quarter, to $22.201 billion, while imports increased 9.6 percent on the year, to $12.374 billion.

Exports to countries outside the CIS declined 14.4 percent year on year to $18.749 billion, while imports from non-CIS countries increased 19.3 percent year on year to $9.656 billion.

Exports to CIS countries declined 4.5 percent year on year to $3.452 billion, while imports from CIS countries declined 15 percent year on year to $2.718 billion.

Itera Pipe Offer

MOSCOW (MT) -- Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov offered the Itera group participation in the construction of a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan, Interfax reported Saturday.

At a meeting with U.S. congressmen in Moscow on Saturday, Itera's president Igor Makarov said two Itera delegations had already visited Afghanistan for feasibility studies on the pipeline and resurrecting the country's gas infrastructure. The company has not made a final decision on participating in the project.

Makarov also said the company plans to develop its oil, gas and chemical industrial activity in addition to building electric power stations close to developed hydrocarbon fields

"Without doubt, we need American technology to do this," he told the congressmen.

U.S. delegation head Curt Weldon said the United States needed to cut energy imports from the Middle East. "In this scenario Russia can play a key role in energy supply to the United States," he said.

Branch Opposition

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- The Central Bank wants foreign banks to be represented in Russia only by subsidiaries, not branches, the Central Bank's first deputy head Andrei Kozlov said Friday.

"Foreign banks should enter the Russian banking system by creating subsidiary banks," he said.

Kozlov also said Russia has to create a banking system "without excessive restrictions." Some restrictions currently exist, but they are "not large and should remain that way," he said.

There were a total of 129 credit organizations with foreign capital participation in Russia as of May 1.

Power Export Jump

MOSCOW (MT) -- Russian electricity exports leapt 27 percent from 14.1 billion kilowatt hours in 2000 to 17.9 billion kilowatt hours in 2001, Interfax quoted Unified Energy Systems as saying in its shareholder report Friday.

The biggest export markets were Kazakhstan with 2.5 billion kilowatt hours, and Finland -- which voted Friday to build itself a new nuclear reactor -- with 7.3 kilowatt hours.

Tati Plans 40 Stores

MOSCOW (Vedomosti) -- French discount supermarket chain Tati plans to invest up to $60 million to open 40 stores in Russia during the next five years.

Tati has 80 stores in France, Switzerland, Germany, Israel, Cameroon, Gabon and Lebanon. The chain is well known for its low prices -- 90 percent of turnover is accounted for by goods costing less than $10.

Tati's director for Russia, Jean-Luc Seban, said last week that during the next five years the company will open 40 to 50 stores here, half of which will be owned directly and the rest franchised.

Preussag Mulls Russia

IBIZA, Spain (Reuters) -- Europe's biggest travel firm Preussag AG said Friday that bookings were starting to improve after a post-Sept. 11 slump.

The German company also said it was holding talks next week about expansion in Russia, which it sees as a growing market.

"A travel industry is beginning to develop in Russia. We want to observe whether we have possibilities there and if so, what they are," Frenzel said.

He said the firm would consider either cooperating with a Russian partner or establishing one of its current brands.

No Takers for Buran

MOSCOW (MT) -- A Buran space shuttle put up for auction by Los Angeles radio station News KFWB AM has not been sold.

The Buran, owned by Moscow-based NPO Molniya space production facility, was offered May 10 at a starting price of $6 million. The item received no bids by the time the auction closed May 22.

Oil Export Talks

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said Friday that the government will discuss third quarter oil exports with domestic oil companies June 20.

He reiterated that exports would have returned to full capacity by the end of June.

Russia agreed in December to cut its exports by around 5 percent or 150,000 barrels per day from January to June to help oil cartel OPEC prop up prices.

"Oil is flowing and by the end of this second quarter it will flow to pre-cut levels," Khristenko said. "No extra volumes [above pre-cut levels] are scheduled for the second quarter."

Russia said May 17 that it will resume full-capacity exports by the end of June because rising oil prices no longer needed support.

But analysts have said the country had already increased exports of crude oil and oil products from March.

MTS in Kaliningrad

KALININGRAD, Western Russia (Prime-Tass) -- No. 1 cellular operator Mobile TeleSystems has launched a dual-band GSM network in the Kaliningrad region, MTS said Friday.

MTS's network now covers 35 regions across Russia.

The company installed a switch with a capacity of 50,000 numbers and several base stations in the city of Kaliningrad.