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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Gazprom Jumps 11%

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- London-listed shares in Gazprom jumped 11 percent on Wednesday on a broker upgrade and on the short supply of Russian oil shares relative to demand, traders said.

Gazprom's American Depository Shares were up 10.82 percent at $21.

Brunswick UBS said Wednesday that it had raised its recommendation on the world's biggest natural gas company to "buy2" from "neutral2" and lifted its 12-month price target to $23.10 from $18.40.

Brunswick cited potential financial benefits from a lower-than-expected mineral extraction tax and the company's plans to increase output by 21 percent by 2030.

Pipeline Pressure

TOKYO (Reuters) -- A proposed pipeline to bring east Siberian oil to Asia is not only vital to Japan's drive to diversify its energy sources, but can also make commercial sense, Japan's top energy official said Wednesday.

"Oil is an international commodity and naturally customers want competitive prices in the international market. We will prove through detailed studies that we can meet this demand," said Iwao Okamoto, head of Japan's Natural Resources Agency.

Eager to diversify its oil sources, import-dependent Japan is courting Moscow to persuade it to opt for a proposal to build a pipeline from eastern Siberia to the Pacific port of Nakhodka over a rival Chinese plan for a route to Daqing.

"We would by all means like Russia to realize the pipeline to Nakhodka to bring Russian oil to the big market of East Asia and the Asia-Pacific, including Japan," Okamoto said.

Ruble Deferment

MINSK, Belarus (AP) -- Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko has decided to put off signing a measure that would allow the ruble to be used in non-cash transactions, a spokesman for the national bank said.

Introduction of the ruble for non-cash transactions has been approved by the bank and the government and is seen as a key step in the planned 2005 introduction of the ruble for all uses in the country.

The common currency is one element in the plan to form a loose union between Russia and Belarus, a plan that Lukashenko has expressed increasing reservations about.

He said Monday that Russia has failed to answer questions posed by Belarus about the common currency, which he said could undermine Belarus' sovereignty, and accused Russia of conducting an information war against Belarus.

State to Sell LUKoil

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- The government will sell its remaining 7.6 percent stake in LUKoil next year, Vedomosti reported Wednesday.

In December, the government earned $775 million on the placement of 5.9 percent of LUKoil at $15.50 per share. It had originally planned to sell that stake in July of that year, but the government pulled the placement, unsatisfied with the price offered by investors of less than $14.

LUKoil stock was trading at $20 on Wednesday.

It is among 100 companies slated for privatization next year, Vedomosti reported. The list also includes a 40 percent stake in Irkutskenergo and 25 percent of shipping firm Novorossiiskoye Morskoye Parokhodstvo.

Gas Output Up 3%

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Gazprom boosted output by 3 percent in the first half of 2003 to 272.99 billion cubic meters from 264.65 bcm in 2002, an Energy Ministry official said Wednesday.

Total gas output also rose 3 percent to 311.25 bcm from January to June 2003 from 302.74 bcm in the first half of 2002 mainly due to Gazprom, which heavily invests in Siberian fields to reverse the previous output slump.

Major oil firms produced 19.64 bcm while medium-sized gas firms, including gas trader Itera, produced 18.60 bcm.

Canada Seizes Antonov

KIEV (MT) -- Canadian justice officials have seized a Ukrainian Antonov freight plane over Ukraine's outstanding debts to Quebec-based TMR Energy, a Ukrainian Foreign Ministry representative said Tuesday.

The An-124 Ruslan plane, owned by the Antonov Design Bureau, was confiscated in Goose Bay, in the Labrador part of Newfoundland province, Agence France Presse cited Interfax as reporting.

The world's second-largest freight carrier was seized because of alleged debts of $62 million owed by Ukraine's State Property Fund to TMR Energy.

Ukrainian Bakers Rally

KIEV (AP) -- Bakers from across Ukraine joined several lawmakers in calling for the cancellation of import duties on grain in order to stabilize the market after consumer hoarding fueled steep food price rises.

Yury Chekalsky, head of the Zaporizhia city bakers' association, joined bread makers from six regions in asking the Cabinet to exempt grain importers from paying duties of up to 80 hryvna ($91) per metric ton after extraordinarily harsh winter weather and a dry summer wiped out much of the country's crops.

Meanwhile, lawmakers submitted a draft law to parliament proposing to allow 2 million metric tons of grain to be imported duty-free this year and exempting grain importers from value-added tax.

$150M Sakhalin Deal

OSLO, Norway (Reuters) -- Norwegian engineering group Aker Kvaerner won a $150 million contract Wednesday from Sakhalin Energy, led by oil giant Royal Dutch/Shell, to develop an oil and gas field off eastern Russia.

"Aker Kvaerner's new contract includes engineering, procurement, management and project services for two platform substructures," Aker Kvaerner said of its contract for the so-called Sakhalin-2 phase two project.

It said that the platform design is built on Aker Kvaerner's experience with concrete platforms in harsh climates, including in the North Sea and off Canada.

A statement put the value of the deal at $150 million, or slightly more than 1 billion Norwegian crowns.

Out of Vietnam

HANOI, Vietnam (Reuters) -- State oil firm Zarubezhneft has officially withdrawn from the Dai Hung, or Big Bear, oil field off Vietnam's southern coast, a Vietnamese official said Wednesday.

After the Russian withdrawal, state oil monopoly Petrovietnam would be the solo explorer of the Dai Hung field in block 05, 1,260 kilometers off Ba Ria-Vung Tau province, the official from Vietsovpetro said.

It was the second Russian pullout from a Vietnam energy project in seven months, and the third withdrawal of a foreign partner from Dai Hung since 1997.

Siberia Gold in London

MOSCOW (Bloomberg) -- Trans-Siberian Gold, which owns licenses to mine gold in Russia, will sell shares to the public in October on London's Alternative Investment Market, becoming the third company with Russian gold assets to do so in 18 months.

Cambridge, Britain-based Trans-Siberian plans to raise between $10 million and $25 million through the initial public offering to help develop its gold reserves, CEO Jocelyn Waller said.

Local and international companies are investing in Russia to boost gold production, as the metal has risen as much as a third since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks increased its demand.

Nuclear Power Growth

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- The consolidated power output of Russian nuclear power plants, all of which are controlled by state nuclear power holding Rosenergoatom, increased 6.9 percent on the year from January to June to 72.82 billion kilowatt-hours, the Nuclear Energy Ministry said Wednesday.

In June, the nuclear plants produced 9.720 billion kwh of electric power, up 13.96 percent on the year.

Currently, 18 nuclear energy blocks are in operation at Russia's 10 nuclear plants, with a combined capacity of 13,380 megawatts, while the other 11 blocks are undergoing scheduled maintenance and one is held in reserve.

Crude Boosts Ruble

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- The ruble extended its gains against the dollar Wednesday amid increasing confidence that the country's soaring oil exports would keep the currency strong for at least another few months.

The ruble firmed to a weighted average for settlement of 30.2843 against the dollar from 30.3260 Tuesday but the volume was thin at $58 million.