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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

$30Bln Trade Surplus

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- The foreign trade surplus in the first five months of 2003 rose sharply to $29.9 billion from $22.1 billion in the same period last year, the State Customs Committee said Monday.

The committee said January to May exports rose 28.3 percent to $50.2 billion compared with the same period last year. Imports stood at $20.3 billion, a rise of 19.5 percent from January to May 2002.

"In the structure of exports, the portion of fuel and energy goods in overall exports was 61.2 percent from January to May 2003, up from 56.5 percent from January to May 2002," the committee said.

Inflation Steady

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- June's consumer price index was unchanged at 0.8 percent month on month compared with May, but up 0.5 percent on last June, the State Statistics Committee said Monday.

According to analysts, Russia's CPI was expected to rise between 0.6 percent and 1.0 percent month on month in June. The Economic Development and Trade Ministry had forecast 0.7 percent to 0.9 percent inflation for June.

The committee said consumer prices rose 7.9 percent in the first half of the year compared with a 9.0 percent rise in the first six months of 2002.

Telecom Bill Signed

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- President Vladimir Putin has signed a telecommunications bill into law that sets the legal basis for the telecommunications business and determines the authority that state bodies have in the communications sector, the Kremlin press service said.

The bill pays special attention to licensing in the telecommunications sector, an activity that had not been defined in detail in previous legislation. The bill says licenses may be issued on the basis of tenders, auctions or other competitions, the rules for which will be set by the government.

The bill defines so-called universal services that include payphone services and public Internet outlets, terms and tariffs for which are to be set by the government.

Operators that provide universal services will be compensated out of a special "universal service reserve" fund. Telecommunications operators will be required to make payments to the fund.

The bill also defines the rules for allocating radio broadcast frequencies, which will initially be allocated for a term of 10 years or less.

Putin: Hurry Budget

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- The 2004 budget should be adopted early due to the State Duma elections slated for Dec. 7, President Vladimir Putin told key government ministers Monday.

"Preferably, this basic economic bill will be adopted not just on time, but slightly ahead of time, in view of the forthcoming parliamentary elections," Putin said.

A trilateral commission, representing the government and both chambers of parliament, will meet to discuss the 2004 draft budget in mid-July, Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov said Monday.

One of the key contested issues is the planned cancellation of the sales tax as of Jan. 1, 2004, which could result in a loss of 60 billion rubles ($1.98 billion) in tax revenues to the regions.

"The main goal for the Federation Council, the chamber that represents the regions in parliament, is to find ways [in the budget] to compensate for those losses," Mironov said.

Before Aug. 1, the Finance Ministry is expected to submit the revised 2004 draft budget to the government, which will consider the draft at its meeting on Aug. 14 and then present it to the State Duma before Aug. 26.

Ford Triples Sales

MOSCOW (MT) -- The Ford Motor Co. on Monday reported sales of 7,375 cars in Russia during the first half of 2003, almost triple the 2,818 sold in the first half of 2002, Dow Jones reported.

The Focus model produced in Russia accounted for 71 percent of all sales, at 5,244 units. The imported Mondeo was the second most popular model, with sales of 1,378 units.

Threat to Shell Licenses

MOSCOW (Bloomberg) -- Russia told Royal Dutch/Shell, the world's No. 2 publicly traded oil company, to start work at a Siberian oil field or lose licenses for it, Vedomosti said, citing Sergei Shutko, a department head at the Natural Resources Ministry.

The ministry gave Shell three months to speed up work and to explain delays to the ministry, Shutko said.

Vladimir Karasyov, deputy governor of Khanty-Mansiisk, where the field is located, said the loss of licenses is unlikely because Shell and partner Sibir Energy have started work. Under Russian law, the ministry and the regional government must both agree to cancel an oil field license.

Shell plans to begin pumping oil from the field in two years. The company has been in talks with the government for more than seven years to obtain a production sharing agreement for the Salym field that would lock in tax payments.

The field holds an estimated 700 million barrels of oil.

Crude Duties Cut

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- The export duty on crude oil will be cut to $25.1 per metric ton from the current $26.8 from Aug. 1, following a decrease in crude oil prices over the last two months, a government official said Monday.

The official said the State Committee for Protection of Branches of Industry, responsible for setting crude oil and refined products export duties, also recommended reducing the oil products export duty to $22.6 per ton from the current $24.1.

Russia sets duties for crude oil and refined products every two months, after monitoring prices of its main crude oil export blend, Urals.

Bulgarian Pipeline Play

MOSCOW (Bloomberg) -- ExxonMobil, the world's largest publicly traded oil company, and ChevronTexaco, the second-largest U.S. oil company, may help finance and build an oil pipeline through Bulgaria and Greece, Bulgarian Regional Development Minister Valentin Tzerovski said.

Tzerovski approached the two companies as the country was seeking financing for the pipeline. The two companies will consider whether to participate as equity shareholders or to finance the project.

U.S. Eximbank is also interested in joining, provided the project has U.S. shareholders or a major contractor. LUKoil may also join the project, Tzerovski said. All interested in the project are expected to meet in Sofia by Sept. 15.

Bulgaria wants to become a power-production center in the Balkans. The 300-kilometer line, which may cost up to $700 million, will carry crude oil from Russia through Bulgaria and Greece. It will run from the Bulgarian port of Bourgas on the Black Sea to Greece's Alexandroupolis on the Aegean Sea.

Slavneft Profit Jump

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- The net consolidated profit of oil major Slavneft rose 26.4 percent on the year to 13.43 billion rubles ($443 million) in 2002, as calculated by Russian accounting standards, the company said Monday.

The company's sales revenues fell 3.4 percent on the year in 2002 to 85.26 billion rubles, while its pretax profit rose 38 percent on the year to 19.61 billion rubles.

Slavneft's oil output rose 8.7 percent on the year to 14.7 million metric tons, while the company's oil processing increased 10.8 percent on the year to 19.4 million tons.

Last year oil majors Sibneft and TNK bought Slavneft. In March the companies reached a preliminary agreement to split equally the assets they own in Slavneft.