Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

State Wages Hiked

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- State Duma members, facing re-election later this year, voted Friday to raise the monthly minimum wage to 600 rubles ($20) from Oct. 1.

The move is set to increase wages in the public sector by 33 percent. The size of many social benefits is linked to the minimum wage. The government had said that the increase would compensate for the rise of consumer prices from 2002 to 2004 and cost some 10 billion rubles ($326.4 million) for the 2003 budget.

The average monthly salary in Russia, where about a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line, was 5,035 rubles ($164) in April after rising 35 percent last year. Consumer prices rose 15.1 percent in 2002 and are expected to increase 10 percent to 12 percent this year.

LUKoil 2002 Results

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- LUKoil unveiled detailed full-year profits Friday that confirmed its output growth lagged rivals' but showed some progress on cost cuts.

LUKoil said sales rose 14 percent to $15 billion mainly due to a change to the sales mix that saw higher-priced exports rise at the expense of lower-priced domestic sales.

But earnings before interest, tax depreciation and amortization to U.S. GAAP standards slid to $3.57 billion from $3.99 billion in 2001. LUKoil announced last Monday that 2002 net income fell over 12 percent to $1.84 billion from $2.11 billion in 2001, hit by changes to tax legislation and higher transportation tariffs.

Stillwater Green Light

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Stillwater Mining Co. said Friday that Institutional Shareholder Services, an influential advisory firm that weighs in on corporate proxy votes, recommended Stillwater investors support its sale of a 51 percent stake to Norilsk Nickel.

ISS cited the Montana-based company's weak financial condition as reason to support the transaction, Stillwater said in a statement.

Stillwater stockholders are scheduled to vote on the transaction at a special meeting next Sunday.

On May 27, Stillwater, the sole U.S. producer of palladium and platinum, said an unnamed private-equity fund withdrew a $100 million rights offering for Stillwater shares. That was the last alternative to the Norilsk offer of $100 million in cash and 877,000 ounces of palladium.

RusAl in Sierra Leone

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AFP) -- Russian Aluminum, or RusAl, the world's No. 2 primary aluminum producer, has put together an investment project for a bauxite mine in southern Sierra Leone, officials at the west African country's Mineral Resources Ministry said Friday.

Officials said plans call for the project to be realized through the framework of developing strategic cooperation between the government of Sierra Leone and RusAl.

RusAl's assets in Guinea include the Bauxite Co. of Kindia, where annual mining capacity is 2.5 million metric tons.

Russia-Iran Coal Deal

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- Russia and Iran have signed a protocol of intention to cooperate in the coal industry, an Energy Ministry representative said Friday.

The protocol was signed following the visit of an Iranian delegation led by the governor of the Yazd province, Seyyed Hamid Kalantari. According to the protocol, the parties will cooperate in reconstructing coal producing companies and washeries and building new ones for the needs of Iran's power, steel and coke industry.

Russia will help set up a research and design center for coal industry in Yazd, Iran's major coal producing region, and participate in building processing plants and facilities to produce fuel bricks, absorbents, activated coal, tar and other products.

Tatneft Explores Iran

KAZAN, Tatarstan (Prime-Tass) -- Oil company Tatneft has signed a contract with the Iranian Institute for Oil Research to carry out exploration of fresh water deposits in southern Iran, Tatneft deputy general director Khamit Kaveyev said Friday.

Kaveyev said that the company intends to employ the latest exploration technology developed by Tatarstan-based researchers. It uses nuclear magnetic resonance that has proved effective during explorations in Russia, Spain, Australia and Asian countries.

Car Import Duties

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has asked the governmental commission on protective measures in foreign trade to revise the draft ruling on hiking import duty rates on foreign-made, three- to seven-year-old cars for private use, a governmental source said Friday.

The source said Kasyanov told the Industry, Science and Technology Ministry to prepare an explanation for hiking the duties.

Another government source said Kasyanov considered the duties rates too high and that they would lead to an unacceptable price increase for those cars.

The government hiked the duty from Sept. 1 for nine months.

$20M Tinkoff Brewery

ST. PETERSBURG (Prime-Tass) -- St. Petersburg-based Tinkoff Brewery has opened a $20 million brewing facility in the Leningrad regional town of Pushkin, Tinkoff CEO Oleg Tinkov said Friday.

The company invested 40 percent of the total project costs, and the other 60 percent were borrowed, with some loans coming from Zenit bank.

German brewery outfitter Steinecker supplied the equipment.

Revising Rail Fee Hikes

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- The Railways Ministry proposed hiking railway tariffs on long-distance passenger travel by 15 percent, compared to the 30 percent increase planned by the Economic Development and Trade Ministry, Railways Minister Gennady Fadeyev said Friday.

The ministry also proposed boosting cargo tariffs by 14.7 percent.

The ministry will resubmit its proposals on tariff hikes to the government by July 20.

$245M for E-Russia

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- Federal spending on the Electronic Russia program is planned at 7.5 billion rubles ($245 million) in 2004, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said Friday.

The E-Russia program is aimed at encouraging the use of Internet technology throughout the government and the school system. The federal budget provides 51 percent of E-Russia funds, while 30 percent is provided by regional budgets and 19 percent by nonbudget funds.

Schools bought 140,000 computers in 2002.

However, only 8 percent of schools are connected to the Internet, and there is only one computer per 120 schoolchildren compared to one per 30 in Europe and one per eight in the United States, Gref said.

15 on Gazprom Board?

MOSCOW (MT) -- The board of directors at Gazprom may be increased to 15 people, Interfax reported Sunday.

The proposals for changes and additions to Gazprom leadership structure will be reviewed at the annual board meeting slated for June 27.

The Gazprom board of directors currently has 11 people.

According to company policy, independent directors must account for at least one-fourth of the seats on the board.

'Russian Vodka'

MOSCOW (Vedomosti) -- Distillers hoping to put the words "Russian vodka" on the labels of their bottles can only do so with Agriculture Ministry approval, Rospatent said last week.

Rospatent made the ruling in an apparent attempt to prevent distillers located on foreign soil from claiming to have a Russian product -- namely exiled vodka tycoon Yury Shefler's SPI Group, which produces vodka packaged as "Russian" in Latvia.

For the Record

Germany's Ruhrgas has increased its stake in Gazprom to 6.8 percent from 6.5 percent, Vedomosti reported Friday. The acquisition was carried out via Gazprombank. Gazprom is trying to help Ruhrgas CEO Burckhard Bergmann secure a seat on the Gazprom board. (Prime-Tass)

The budget surplus in the first five months of 2003 reached 65.3 billion rubles ($2.13 billion), or 1.3 percent of GDP, a Finance Ministry official said Friday. The budget surplus was 31.7 billion rubles, or 0.8 percent of GDP, from January to April. (Reuters)

The Anti-Monopoly Ministry said Friday that it might ask Yukos and Sibneft to alter their operations in some regions before approving an agreed takeover, Dow Jones reported. (MT)

Schlumberger Ltd. and Canada's Navbar are interested in buying a stake in LUKoil-Bureniye, a drilling subsidiary of LUKoil, the company's president Vagit Alekperov said Friday. (Prime-Tass)