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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Greek's Lottery Lie?



ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- A magistrate on Tuesday opened a probe into accusations that one of Greece's richest tycoons reneged on a deal to set up a lottery system in Russia.

Socrates Kokkalis, a telecommunications magnate, was sued in June by Russia's national sports foundation for allegedly breaking a contract to supply the lottery machines, software and technology to set up a lottery in Russia.

The foundation, which claims a contract was signed in 1994, is seeking $40 million in damages.

An investigating magistrate will now decide whether to refer the case to trial or drop the charges.

Kokkalis countersued the Russian foundation last week for false accusations, libel and other charges.

Educated in Moscow and East Germany, he returned to Greece to set up Intracom, which supplies Greece's former state telephone company with equipment.

Kokkalis' companies include Intracom and gaming operator Intralot, both of which have contracts abroad, mostly in the Balkans but also in Latin America. He is also president of the Olympiakos Piraeus sports club.

The 63-year-old was listed No. 421 on the Forbes list of world billionaires in 2001, with an estimated fortune of $1.2 billion. It was the last time he made the list.




Gazprom Satiated



MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Gazprom said Tuesday it planned no more borrowing this year.

"We are not going to borrow anything for the rest of this year. We are restricted by the fact that we have fulfilled the program for this year," board member Andrei Kruglov told reporters.

Gazprom has set a borrowing limit of 130 billion rubles ($4.25 billion). In September, Gazprom placed a bond of 1 billion euros, and in February it sold a $1.75 billion eurobond. It has borrowed $3.31 billion on local and international markets this year.

Gazprom has one of the country's heaviest debt burdens, of $13 billion, mostly in short-term liabilities. The company is now replacing short-term and expensive debt with longer-term and cheaper liabilities.




Raj-Prom?



NEW DELHI, India (Reuters) -- British Gas, Cairn Energy and Reliance Industries Ltd. have bid for oil and gas exploration blocks offered under the fourth round of India's New Exploration Licensing Policy.

A subsidiary of Gazprom was also among seven foreign companies and 19 Indian companies that bid for the blocks.

"We have got bids for 22 out of the 24 blocks. The response is much better than in the previous rounds," Indian Oil Minister Ram Naik told reporters Tuesday.

Naik said he was satisfied with the response although the top oil companies of the world did not submit a bid. "It is their commercial decision," he said.

Global oil majors have stayed away in the previous three rounds of the exploration-licensing policy.




Megafon Claim Nixed



MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- The Supreme Court of the Bahamas on Monday rejected a claim filed by Bermuda-registered offshore IPOC International Growth Fund Ltd. against other shareholders of Megafon, Russia's No. 3 mobile phone service provider, Alfa-Eco said Tuesday.

Alfa-Eco is a subsidiary of Alfa Group, which acquired a 25.1 percent stake in Megafon by purchasing LV Finance in August.

IPOC said earlier it agreed to buy the Megafon stake in 2001 from LV Finance and has paid millions of dollars under two option agreements.

Alfa has vowed to fight the claim "anywhere and everywhere."




EBRD Ends VTB Audit



MOSCOW (Reuters) -- The country's No. 2 bank, Vneshtorgbank, said Tuesday the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has completed an audit for the sale of a stake in the state-run bank by the end of the year.

"We have gained speed and there is every chance we will close the deal by Jan. 1," VTB head Andrei Kostin told reporters.

The sale will take place within the government's banking reform framework. The government wants to reduce its role in the banking sector, which is still heavily dominated by state-run institutions.

The EBRD, set up to help the transition from communism to market economies in Eastern Europe, has said it wants to buy a 10 percent to 20 percent stake in VTB for up to $300 million.

Kostin said the next round of talks with the EBRD was due to start next week.

Kostin also announced that VTB has attracted a $175 million foreign loan to finance the bank's foreign trade operations.




Ruble Firms to 30.59



MOSCOW (Reuters) -- The ruble recovered some strength against the dollar Tuesday as tight supply kept lending rates high but banks were reluctant to part with dollars as they expect them to gain when the ruble liquidity crunch ends.

The ruble for today delivery firmed to a weighted average of 30.5914 per dollar from 30.6068 Monday, when it dived more than 10 kopeks, testing 10-day lows against the U.S. currency.

"The market is extremely nervous because of persistently high ruble rates, and that is slowing dollar gains," a dealer at a large commercial bank said.

"But market sentiment on buying dollars remains strong and the only thing stopping us now is ruble liquidity."




Sibneft EGM



MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Oil major Sibneft said Tuesday it would hold an extraordinary shareholders meeting on Nov. 20 to confirm a nine-month interim dividend offer that has yet to be made.

"The size of the dividend will be determined by the board of directors at a meeting that will be held in the second 10 days of October," Sibneft said in a statement.

In ruble-based trade, Sibneft shares jumped on the news to trade at 91.8 rubles ($3), up 3.06 percent from the previous day's close. On the dollar-based RTS it was untraded.

For the first six months of the year, Sibneft shareholders have approved a payout of 30.5 billion rubles ($996.1 million).




$110M Kazkh Loan



MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is leading a consortium of international banks in lending $110 million to Kazakhstan's national telecommunications operator Kazakhtelecom to help the company restructure its debts and modernize its network in the context of the government's planned liberalization of the market, the EBRD said in a statement Tuesday.