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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

S.P.I. Sues Russia

MOSCOW (MT) -- Embattled vodka exporter S.P.I. Group has filed a lawsuit with a court in Rotterdam against the Russian government, demanding compensation for harm caused to the company's business by state-owned Soyuzplodoimport.

S.P.I. said in a statement Monday that it was seeking 5 million euros ($4.89 million) in damages.

The lawsuit directly blames Soyuzplodoimport director Vladimir Loginov and former general director Yury Zhizhin, both of whom have been subpoenaed.

"This is S.P.I.'s reaction to Mr. Loginov's many attempts as a representative of the government and the director of a state company, to interfere in existing contracts concluded between S.P.I. and its overseas distributors," S.P.I. said in its press release.

A spokeswoman for Soyuzplodoimport said no subpoenas had been received.

The lawsuit was filed in response to a government resolution of July 4, which transferred 17 disputed vodka trademarks, including the highly popular Stolichnaya, to the recently formed state company Soyuzplodoimport.

Contract Coal Killing?

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- Police have said the murder of the deputy CEO of state-owned coal trader Rosuglesbyt over the weekend may have been a contract killing, Itar-Tass said Monday.

Police discovered the body of Ivan Kartashov, 41, on Saturday, the day of his death, near his home 29 kilometers west of Moscow. He had been shot through the head and had several more bullet wounds in his torso.

Police said the official's murder was related to his professional activity. No further information was available.

$720M Uzbek Gas Plan

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (Prime-Tass) -- Oil major LUKoil and international gas producer and trader Itera plan to invest $720 million in the exploration and development of gas reserves in Uzbekistan, Itar-Tass quoted a source with Uzbekistan's oil and gas company Uzbekneftegaz as saying Monday.

The source did not provide an exact timeframe for the investment.

The two companies plan to develop a number of unspecified gas fields in Uzbekistan's Bukhara, Khiva and Gissar regions.

The projects' fulfillment is expected to allow the production of an additional 7 billion cubic meters of natural gas.

The companies plan to set up a joint stock company in which Uzbekneftegaz is expected to hold 10 percent, with LUKoil and Itera each holding 45 percent.

OPEC Talks

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (Reuters) -- Rival oil exporters Saudi Arabia and Russia are holding talks on supply cooperation, but it is too early to talk of a fresh pact after the last one collapsed earlier this year, a Saudi source said Monday.

"There is ongoing contact and consultation between Saudi Arabia and Russia with regard to the oil markets," the Saudi source said, asking not to be named.

The Saudi source said it was premature to say whether the world's top two oil exporters were in the process of hammering out a new production cooperation agreement.

"That is taking things too far at this stage," he said.

Beer Launch

MOSCOW (MT) -- SABMiller, the world's No. 2 brewer in terms of sales, unveiled its new Russian brand Tri Bogatyrya, or Three Knights, on Monday.

The company expects to sell 200,000 dekaliters of the new low-price beer this month, said Alan Richards, the general director of Transmark, SABMiller's local representative. Tri Bogatyrya represents SABMiller's first foray in the low-core segment.

"We believe that our new brand will occupy a solid position among the main players in this sector of the market," Richards said.

The beer will be sold in 0.5 liter bottles for between 12 and 13 rubles.

SABMiller produces popular local premium brand Zolotaya Bochka as well as licensed brews Holsten Premium, Miller Genuine Draft and Staropramen.

Brazil Eyes Wheat

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Brazilian firms are examining the possibility of importing wheat from Russia and Ukraine this year or next as an alternative to expensive shipments from crisis-hit Argentina, a Brazilian trader said Monday.

"Mills in Brazil are looking for wheat, including Russian and Ukrainian wheat," Denis Parisot, the general director of Partrade company, said at a meeting with Russian grain traders.

Parisot said his company, which specializes in the fruit trade between Latin America and Europe, acted as an agent for some Brazilian grain importers he would not name and was trying to find possible wheat suppliers in Russia and Ukraine.

MTS in Belarus

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- Three cellular operators in Belarus signed an agreement on interconnecting each other's networks, a spokeswoman for leading cellular operator Mobile TeleSystems said Monday.

The three companies are leading Belarussian GSM operator Velcom; MTS-Belarus, a 49 percent-owned subsidiary of MTS; and Belcel, a joint cellular venture of Cable & Wireless and Belarussian government authorities.

The deal, valid until the end of this year, allows the integration of traffic between the three companies' networks.

For the Record

Leading cellular operator Mobile TeleSystems on Monday announced it had signed 500,000 subscribers in St. Petersburg. The company reached the half-a-million mark in eight months of its operations in the country's northern capital. (MT)

Cigarette imports rose 13.4 percent year on year in the first half in monetary terms to $56.8 million, the State Customs Committee said Monday. (Prime-Tass)