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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

7.6% Unemployment

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- The number of unemployed Russians was 5.52 million people, or 7.6 percent of the workforce at the end of August, down from 5.63 million in July, the State Statistics Committee said Friday.

The committee revised downward the number of jobless in August 2002 to 5.2 million from a previously announced 5.39 million, or 7.5 percent of the work force. It gave no new figure for the percentage of unemployed in August last year.

$3Bln in WB Loans?

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (Reuters) -- Russia plans to borrow $400 million to $600 million per year until 2010 from the World Bank for infrastructure projects, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said Saturday.

Kudrin told reporters on the sidelines of a Group of Seven meeting here that Russia was close to signing loan projects with the World Bank on education, renovation of the historical center of St. Petersburg and for the city of Kazan in southern Russia.

He said the government plans to finance between 60 percent and 80 percent of some of the projects from the federal budget, with the rest coming from the World Bank.

Kudrin said the government plans to decrease its lending from the bank after 2010.

Green Corridor

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- The State Customs Committee is considering opening a green corridor at the Torfyanovka customs checkpoint near Vyborg in the Leningrad region for the free flow of goods to Russia from Sweden and Finland, an official with the committee said Friday.

A new electronic system will be used that will cut amount of time it takes goods to clear customs to several minutes from the several hours or even days it takes now, the official said.

The new system would also eliminate opportunities for customs fraud, the official said.

The project, which all three nations agreed to in December, is expected to be launched Monday and will initially include 15 companies from Sweden and Finland.

GM Food Crackdown

MOSCOW (MT) -- The State Health Inspectorate on Friday published a decree that introduces tougher safety standards over imports of food grown with the use of genetically modified microorganisms.

The list of products includes cheeses, dairy products, salami, beer and other food items produced with the use of genetic technologies, Deputy Health Minister Gennady Onishenko, the head of the health inspectorate, told Rossiiskaya Gazeta, where the decree was published.

All genetically modified products must now pass inspection by the Gamai epidemiology and microbiology research institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

"The examination is first of all aimed at finding unregistered genetic strains," Onishenko said. "Unregistered GM products and products containing more than 5 percent of GM components will not be allowed to be imported."

For the last three years, the Academy of Medical Sciences and Food Institute was responsible for testing GM products, but now the Health Ministry is toughening control by involving experts from Gamai, State Health Inspectorate spokeswoman Lyubov Vorotayeva said.

Less Barter With Kiev

KIEV (AP) -- Ukraine's transit volumes of Russian natural gas will remain unchanged in 2004, but it will get 10 percent less for domestic use, officials said Friday.

Russia's state-owned gas monopoly Gazprom agreed to pump 110 billion cubic meters of gas to its European customers through Ukrainian pipelines in 2004, the same amount as this year, Ukrainian state gas company Naftogaz said.

Gazprom will also supply Naftogaz with 6 bcm of gas to maintain 2003 export volumes to Europe, a key source of much-needed cash to modernize the company's pipelines.

However, Naftogaz will get only 24 bcm for domestic consumption, down from 26 bcm this year. Gazprom is seeking to reduce Ukraine's barter payments in favor of cash.

Ukraine will pay $50 per 1,000 cubic meters for the gas.

Gazprom also promised to allow shipment of 36 bcm of Turkmen gas from Turkmenistan to Ukraine in 2004.

Surgut Buys Oil Fields

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- No. 4 oil firm Surgutneftegaz said Friday that it had bought two oil fields in western Siberia with probable reserves of 242 million barrels, seeking to replenish its oil reserve base.

A company official said the firm had bought at state auction two licenses for exploring and developing the North-Yutymsk and South-Yutymsk fields with reserves of metric 19 million tons (140 million barrels) and 14 million tons, respectively.

The state has auctioned 11 fields with total probable reserves of 210 million tons, the most lucrative field being Bobrovsky with 48 million tons, or 351 million barrels of reserves.

Surgut did not disclose the price paid for the licenses. The Natural Resources Ministry did not provide the names of other winners.

Price Index Up 1.4%

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia's producer price index rose 1.4 percent month on month in August after rising 2.2 percent in July, the State Statistics Committee said Friday.

Producer prices rose 9 percent year on year in the first eight months of 2003, the committee said in a statement. Producer prices rose 12.4 percent in the first eight months of last year.

Bullish Crude Forecast

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia has set an ambitious oil output target of 8.6 million barrels per day for the fourth quarter and a cautious export schedule as it fears port closures due to bad weather, news agencies reported Saturday.

In recent years, Russia, the world's second-largest oil exporter, has regularly faced a severe domestic crude oil and product glut due to reduced exports in the fourth quarter. Domestic oil prices usually fall threefold.

Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko was quoted as saying the country would export 33.5 million metric tons (2.67 million bpd) of its own crude via Transneft in the last three months of the year.

In August, the comparative figure was 3.17 million bpd.

Exports including Transneft's shipments of Russian crude, oil in transit from neighboring Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan as well as via alternative routes bypassing Transneft have been set at 44.2 million tons, or 3.52 million bpd.

Oil output in all of 2003 is expected to rise to 8.33 million to 8.40 million bpd compared to 7.59 million bpd in 2002, Khristenko said.

$27M Menatep Profit

MOSCOW (MT) -- Menatep said last week that its retail arm, Menatep St. Petersburg, posted a profit of 815 million rubles ($26.6 million) in the first half of the year, triple the amount it made in the same period last year, Dow Jones reported.

The bank's assets grew nearly 5 billion rubles, or 13 percent, to 42.1 billion rubles in the first six months, according to figures audited to international accounting standards. Its credit portfolio in the period jumped 30 percent to 23.4 billion rubles.

Trust, Menatep's investment banking subsidiary, saw pretax profit in the period jump 150 percent to 1.16 billion rubles on a return on equity of 21 percent, the news agency said.

Serbia Woos Gazprom

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro (Reuters) -- Serbian oil and gas monopoly Naftna Industrija Srbije said it had agreed to buy 850 million cubic meters of gas by the end of the year from its supplier Gazprom, but was hoping for a longer term contract.

NIS acting general manager Pavle Vuckovic said the new supplies were agreed in Russia when the two sides also discussed NIS's $265 million debt to Gazprom for gas supplied in the late 1990s, during the rule of Slobodan Milosevic.

"We are urging for a longer term agreement but at the moment the Russian side was ready to agree on this quantity," Vuckovic said.

Serbia has to import natural gas to meet domestic needs of around 2 billion cubic meters per year.

Kazakhs Deny Bribes

ALMATY, Kazakhstan (Reuters) -- Kazakhstan's government on Friday dismissed allegations it was involved in corrupt schemes with foreign investors and said all its energy deals were lawful and transparent.

J. Bryan Williams, a 63-year-old former senior Mobil Oil executive, was sentenced in New York on Thursday to 46 months in prison on tax evasion charges linked to a government investigation into bribery schemes in oil deals in Kazakhstan.

Mobil is now ExxonMobil Corp. and has 25 percent in the Tengizchevroil venture with Kazakhstan.

"As a government member for many years, I categorically reject any allegations of corruption in our country, especially in the government," Kazakh Energy Minister Vladimir Shkolnik said.