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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Kiriyenko Woos Toyota

MOSCOW (MT) -- Toyota chairman Hiroshi Okuda was in Nizhny Novgorod this week to discuss the possibility of Toyota launching production in Russia, news agencies reported.

On Wednesday, Okuda held talks with former Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko, now the presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District, the hub of Russia's automobile industry, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported.

While in Japan in August, Kiriyenko invited Okuda to visit Nizhny Novgorod with an eye to either launching production or a possible joint venture with Russian automobile manufacturers, Kiriyenko's office was quoted as saying. Toyota has said it is looking at starting passenger car production in Russia.

$1.8 Bln Gazprom Net?

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- The world's biggest gas company, Gazprom, will show healthier first quarter 2003 profits on the back of higher prices and sales, analysts said Thursday.

The company, which supplies Europe with a quarter of its gas, plans to publish its first quarter results to international accounting standards this week or next.

A survey of four analysts produced an average forecast for net income of $1,805 million.

There are no comparative figures, as this is the first time Gazprom has published quarterly figures.

Gazprom is expected to profit from higher international prices, which gained in the first quarter following a rise in oil prices in 2002. Gas prices follow oil prices with a lag of six to nine months.

Gazprom's exports, the main source of revenues, rose 10.5 percent to 38.9 billion cubic meters to Western and Central Europe in the first quarter of 2003 as a cold winter and anticipations of price rises boosted demand.

The company boosted output to 143.07 bcm in the first three months of the year from 140.17 bcm in the same period of 2002.

LUKoil Doubles Profit

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- National No. 2 oil producer LUKoil more than doubled its second quarter net profit to $1.544 billion compared with the same period last year, on the sale of a stake in an Azeri oil field.

The net profit figure fell just below analysts' expectations of $1.58 billion. LUKoil also said in a statement Thursday that second quarter revenues rose to $5.086 billion from $3.794 billion last year.

Second quarter EBITDA was $1.947 billion compared with $1.074 in the second quarter of 2002.

LUKoil earned $1.13 billion from the sale of a 10 percent share in a BP-led Azeri oil project to unlisted Japanese firm Inpex in April.

The company had been Russia's biggest oil producer with output of 1.6 million barrels a day. But it has been eclipsed by the merger of rivals Yukos and Sibneft, which now form YukosSibneft, Russia's biggest oil company with output on a par with world No. 4 Total.

Nationwide SMS

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- Top mobile operator Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) and No. 2 Vimpelcom have launched guaranteed short message service (SMS) exchange between subscribers of both companies across Russia, the companies said in a press release Thursday.

In May 2002, the companies signed an agreement to launch SMS exchange services in the Moscow region, which led to an increase in SMS traffic in the region.

In August, SMS traffic between Moscow subscribers of MTS and Vimpelcom reached about 30 million messages. During this year the companies have been carrying out a range of operations, to make it possible for subscribers of both networks to exchange SMS messages all over Russia.

The rate of an outgoing SMS depends on the subscribers tariff plans, while any incoming SMS is free of charge in Russia.

$400M MTS Bond

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Leading mobile operator Mobile TeleSystems has successfully placed a $400 million 2010 bond at 8.375 percent, MTS press secretary Pavel Nefedov said Thursday.

"The placement occurred yesterday evening; It went ahead successfully," Nefedov said.

$300 MMK Bond

MOSCOW (MT) -- MMK Finance, a funding unit of Russia's largest steel smelter, Magnitogorsk Metallurgy Plant (MMK), placed five-year bonds worth $300 million Thursday, news agencies reported.

The issue's lead managers are ABN Amro and UBS Investment Bank.

The issue matures on Oct. 21, 2008, and has an annual coupon rate of 8 percent.

The bond, listed in Luxembourg, was assigned a rating of Ba3 from Moody's, and B from Standard & Poor's.

Record Kiev Reserves

KIEV (Reuters) -- Ukraine's gross hard currency reserves hit a record high of $7 billion Thursday and will grow another $286 million by the end of the year despite upcoming foreign debt payments, according to Serhiy Tyhypko, the Central Bank's chairman.

"It is the first time in Ukraine's history when our hard currency reserves have reached $7 billion. We will support the positive trend in the future," Tyhypko told a news conference Thursday.

Ukraine's hard currency reserves have been steadily growing over the past three years after recovering from their lows after a regional financial crisis in 1998.

Their growth has been mainly spurred by the central bank's dollar purchases on the interbank market.

The Central Bank has bought about $2.263 billion on the market since the start of the year, including $90 million in October.

Chevron Big on Tengiz

ALMATY, Kazakhstan (Reuters) -- Oil output at Kazakhstan's giant onshore Tengiz field developed by a ChevronTexaco-led group is expected to rise four-fold to 1 million barrels per day by 2012, the U.S. major oil company said.

"I think Tengiz has potential to produce 1 million barrels per day," Guy Hollingsworth, managing director of ChevronTexaco's Eurasian business unit, told reporters on the sidelines of an international oil and gas conference.

"If the economics are right, it could happen by 2012. There could be some two more expansion plans on Tengiz," he added.

Tengiz, in western Kazakhstan, is expected to produce 13 million metric tons of crude, or 260,000 bpd, this year.

The Tengiz venture, Tengizchevroil, incorporates ChevronTexaco with a 50 percent stake, ExxonMobil with 25 percent, Kazakhstan's state oil and gas firm KazMunaiGaz with 20 percent and LUKArco with 5 percent.

Sibir to Spiff Up Image

MOSCOW (MT) -- Russia's No. 2 airline, Sibir, said Thursday it had hired a leading London-based branding agency to help the company spiff up its image.

It said Landor Associates will review the Sibir brand and help the company remake its visual identity and maybe even change its name.

Sibir, Russia's fastest-growing airline, held a tender this spring for the rebranding contract, which attracted five Western companies, including Landor.

Landor has helped remake the images of more than 40 airlines, including Gulf Air and JAL.

Sibir, which operates 47 Russian-made airplanes, is looking to upgrade its fleet with foreign jets and expand its international operations, the company said in a statement.

Minsk Touts Trade Pact

KIEV (AP) -- Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko on Thursday pushed for implementation of a common market with Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan after top EU officials assured Ukraine the plan wouldn't set back Kiev's goal of EU membership.

The presidents of the four former Soviet republics agreed to the deal on free movement of goods, capital and labor as well as common tariffs and customs policies at meeting last month.

In talks with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma Thursday, Lukashenko stressed the common market would increase regional prosperity and urged Kiev to cooperate both with the EU and Russia to achieve the goal, Kuchma's office said in a statement. The leaders also discussed boosting bilateral trade and border controls during Lukashenko's one-day visit.

At an EU-Ukraine summit this week, European Commission President Romano Prodi said the pact wouldn't prevent Ukraine from eventually joining the EU.