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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Record Yukos Loan

LONDON (Reuters) -- Yukos is raising a $1 billion syndicated loan that will set a new benchmark for international loans to Russian borrowers, banking sources said Thursday.

The loan which is one of the largest ever loans for a Russian company, has been underwritten by Citigroup, Commerzbank, Credit Lyonnais, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, ING Bank and Societe Generale. The arrangers will shortly syndicate the loan further, sources said.

Computerized Customs

MOSCOW (MT) -- The State Customs Committee will obtain a $140 million loan from the World Bank next year, according to an agreement signed this week.

The first tranche of the loan is expected in December or January. Customs will modernize its customs points with a unified computer and telecommunications system, a statement on the agency's web site said. This, in turn, will speed customs and reduce corruption.

According to the agency's web site, in one day only, Aug. 27, eight criminal cases and 253 administrative cases were opened into violations of customs rules, $162,000 worth of goods were confiscated and $62,000 worth of fines applied for customs violations.

Alfa's Telecom Approval

MOSCOW (MT) -- Vimpelcom's board of directors approved Alfa Group's purchase of a 25.1 percent stake in competing GSM operator Megafon, Interfax cited a company statement as saying.

This means interested parties will review the possibility of merging the countries No. 2 and No. 3 mobile operators, the statement said.

The finalization of the deal is still pending approval from the Anti-Monopoly Ministry.

Alfa group owns a 25 percent interest in Vimpelcom, owner of the Bee Line brand. An agreement between Vimpelcom and its shareholders, including Alfa group subsidiary Eko Telekom and Norwegian Telenor, gives Vimpelcom the right to approve this kind of purchase.

Alfa group announced its purchase of LV Finance assets -- which included the Megafon stake -- in early August, giving it blocking stakes in two of the countries leading GSM companies.

Megafon's other shareholders met the news that their new partner was a competitor with dissatisfaction, issuing a statement that they had not been consulted in the run up to the purchase, which it claimed violated previous agreements.

Vimpelcom Aspirations

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- No. 2 cellular operator Vimpelcom said Thursday it had raised its 2003 revenue growth target to between 60 percent and 65 percent and forecast growth in core profitability this year.

"We are targeting 2003 annual revenue growth of 60-65 percent," Chief Executive Jo Lunder said on a conference call. "We [expect] EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) margins at a higher level than 2002 because of strong regional subscriber growth.

He said the company expected to have 10 million clients by the end of the year, up from 8.5 million now, and forecast capital expenditure of $650 million this year, more than previously forecast.

Impatient With Belarus

MOSCOW (AP) -- President Vladimir Putin has prodded Belarussan President Alexander Lukashenko to sign quickly a long-discussed agreement to use the Russian ruble as the single currency in Russia and Belarus, the Kremlin said Thursday.

In a letter to Lukashenko, excerpts of which were released by the Kremlin, Putin said that the agreement on the single currency had finalized and should be signed in the "nearest future." The letter signaled Russia's growing impatience with Belarus.

Russia and Belarus signed a union treaty in 1996 envisaging close political, economic and military ties. The two countries stopped short of creating a single state and have made few concrete moves toward integration.

Lenzoloto on the Block

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia will hold an auction Sept. 17 to sell a 44.9 percent stake in the country's gold producing firm, Lenzoloto, a spokesman for the State Property Fund said Thursday.

The spokesman said that the starting price for the stake was set at 1.07 billion rubles ($35.04 million). Bids will be accepted until Sept. 15.

Lenzoloto produces mainly gold from placers or surface deposits in the Siberian Irkutsk region. Its output was 9.2 metric tons in 2002.

Metals giant Norilsk Nickel is seen as the main contender for the stake. Last month it bought a 6.8 percent stake in Lenzoloto.

Norilsk last year bought the country's top gold producer Polyus and has repeatedly said it is eyeing further expansion in gold. Earlier this month it bought a controlling stake in another gold mining company, Matrosov Mine.

Norilsk, the world's largest nickel and palladium producer, aims to increase its output of gold to 100 metric tons per year from current 30 through acquisition of new assets in the next five years.

It has said it would bid for the huge Siberian Sukhoi Log deposit, estimated to contain 1,029 tons of gold. An auction for the rights to develop Sukhoi Log is expected to be held next year.

IMF Brightens Outlook

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- The International Monetary Fund believes Russia's economy is likely to grow by around 5.9 percent in 2003 after expanding 4.3 percent last year, an IMF resident representative said Thursday.

"We do not have any significant disagreement with official projections [for economic growth] which is now 5.9 percent for this year and 5.2 percent for 2004," Goohoon Kwon said.

"We are revising our forecast upwards on the basis of a stronger outturn for the first half of this year and because of much higher than projected oil prices," he added.

Kwon said he expected the IMF to release precise growth estimates within a week. Previously the IMF had forecast 4 percent growth for 2003.

$75M Pipeline Upgrade

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- A group of banks led by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development plans to lend $75 million to the owner and operator of oil product pipeline system, Transnefteproduct, the EBRD said Thursday.

Transnefteproduct will use the credit to finance modernization of its network, the EBRD said in a statement.

"The transaction marks the state-owned firm's debut in the international debt market -- with the EBRD acting as the lender of record for the full amount and providing $30 million of its own funds," the statement said.

Transnefteproduct's 15,200-kilometers of pipelines are capable of handling 55 million tons of oil products a year, mostly diesel, jet fuel and petrol. Two thirds of the pipelines have been in service for over 30 years.