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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Gazprom Liberalization

The State Duma finished a bill to remove limits on foreign ownership and trading of Gazprom shares, Interfax said, citing Valery Yazev, chairman of the Duma's energy committee.

Yazev said he signed the bill Thursday, the news agency reported. Interfax did not say when the bill would be put to a vote. (Bloomberg)

Iraq Seeks Qurna Investors

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Iraq, holder of the world's third-largest oil reserves, has invited international companies to bid for a contract to drill 20 new oil wells at its West Qurna field to boost output from one of the country's biggest crude reservoirs.

State-run South Oil this month asked companies to bid for the West Qurna contract by Nov. 20, according to the tender notice posted on the company's web site.

LUKoil is seeking to regain rights to the West Qurna field in southern Iraq. Saddam Hussein's regime revoked LUKoil's contract shortly before the U.S.-led invasion of the country in 2003. (Bloomberg, MT)

Conoco Bid With Partner

LONDON -- The Natural Resources Ministry will not block joint bids by ConocoPhillips and LUKoil for oil and gas fields.

Natural Resources Minister Yury Trutnev told ConocoPhillips chief executive James Mulva on Friday that the U.S. company might "bid without restrictions in any auctions" for fields in Russia together with LUKoil, according to a ministry statement. (Bloomberg)

Russneft Filling Stations

Russneft became the biggest owner of filling stations in and around Moscow by acquiring the Corus chain, Vedomosti reported Friday, citing Russneft vice president Eduard Sarkisov.

Russneft spent about $100 million to buy the chain, the newspaper said, citing an unidentified Corus employee. (Bloomberg)

Russneft Bryansk Refinery

Russneft asked the authorities in the Bryansk region for permission to build an oil refinery, which may cost as much as 50.2 billion rubles ($1.8 billion), Interfax reported, citing an unidentified local parliamentary official.

The refinery will have an annual capacity of 6 million tons, or 120,000 barrels a day, the news service said. An unidentified Russneft official confirmed the application, Interfax said.

Russneft has already built a rail terminal in the Bryansk region near Belarus, partly funded by Glencore, a commodities trader based in Switzerland. (Bloomberg)

Port Oil Exports Up

Russia will export 2.7 percent more oil from its main ports in November, as loadings at Primorsk, the country's biggest crude outlet, soar to a record.

Exporters plan to load 2.68 million barrels per day at the country's main ports, 70,000 barrels per day more than they loaded this month, according to port schedules for Primorsk, Novorossiisk, Gdansk, Butinge, Yuzhny and Tuapse. (Bloomberg)

RZD Oil Shipments

Rail monopoly Russian Railways increased oil shipments to China by 23 percent in the first nine months of the year versus the same period last year, Interfax reported Friday, citing the company.

RZD transported 5.8 million tons of oil, or 156,000 barrels a day, to China in the period, the service said, without giving the exact figure for a year ago.

The company expects to deliver between 7 million and 8 million tons of oil to China this year, less than an originally forecast 10 million tons, Interfax reported. (Bloomberg)

Novatek Q3 Output Up

Natural gas producer Novatek said output rose 82 percent in the third quarter. Net gas production increased to 6.25 billion cubic meters in the period, from 3.44 billion cubic meters in the same three months of 2004, the company said Friday in a statement.

Novatek extracted 649.55 million tons of gas condensate and crude oil in the quarter, down 10 percent from the year-ago period. The net production figures include production by subsidiary companies and Novatek's share of production from affiliates, the company said. (Bloomberg)

Itera JV Seeks Partner

LONDON -- A NGK Itera venture has invited China National Petroleum Corp. and Oil India to explore oil fields in the country's Kalmykia region, Interfax reported, citing Kalmykia President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.

Itera, which holds 63 percent of Yugneftegaz, its joint venture with the Kalmykian administration, is exploring 11 fields in the region, the news service said. (Bloomberg)

Kremlin Slams Sukhoi Plan

Sukhoi Civil Aircraft's plans to develop the Russian Regional Jet program is facing criticism in the Kremlin for relying on too many foreign-produced components, Vedomosti said Friday.

Alexander Beglov, head of the rules-enforcement directorate of President Vladimir Putin's administration, said in a document that the project did not have a good chance and that the large amount of parts supplied from abroad contradicted Putin's strategy of developing the domestic aviation industry, the newspaper reported. (Bloomberg)

Severstal Net Profit Falls

Steelmaker Severstal said profit fell 8 percent in the first nine months of the year as steel export prices dropped.

Net income declined to 25.3 billion rubles ($890 million) from 27.5 billion rubles a year earlier, Severstal said on Friday.

Revenue rose 15 percent to 106.8 billion rubles, the company said. The results were reported to Russian Accounting Standards. (Bloomberg)

Alrosa Valued at $6 Billion

LONDON -- Russia's auditing company has estimated the value of Alrosa at about $6 billion, Interfax reported, citing an unidentified official.

The Federal Property Management Agency and Alrosa hired the Center for Professional Valuation to examine Alrosa's assets, the news service said.

Russia planned to sell a stake in Alrosa, which produces one-quarter of the world's diamonds, to a single investor or through an initial public share offering, Alexei Ulyukayev said in 2003. Ulyukayev was deputy finance minister at the time. He now serves as Central Bank first deputy chairman. (Bloomberg)

Moody's Upgrades Banks

Sberbank and Vneshtorgbank were among nine Russian banks that had their foreign-debt ratings upgraded by Moody's Investors Service.

Sberbank, the nation's largest bank, had its foreign currency debt rating on unsecured debt upgraded to A2 from Baa2, Moody's said Friday in a statement. Vneshtorgbank, Russia's second-largest lender, has its U.S.-dollar denominated debt upgraded to A2 from Baa2.

Gazprombank, Bank of Moscow, Russian Bank for Development, Vneshekonombank, Russian Agricultural Bank, KMB-Bank and ZAO Raiffeisenbank Austria also had their ratings upgraded by Moody's. (Bloomberg)

MegaFon H1 Profit Up 85%

Cell phone operator MegaFon said profit jumped 85 percent in the first half of this year.

Net income rose to $187.5 million from $101.6 million in the same period last year, the company said Friday.

Revenue rose 65 percent to $1.03 billion under U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.

MegaFon, in which Stockholm-based TeliaSonera owns 44 percent, has said it may sell shares to the public to finance expansion. (Bloomberg)

Kalina Net Profit Up

Cosmetics maker Concern Kalina said nine-month profit rose 12 percent on higher sales of its Black Pearl line of skin care, Anzhelika Varum perfume and the 32 brand of toothpaste.

Net income advanced to 465.3 million rubles ($16 million) from 415.7 million rubles a year earlier, Yekaterinburg-based Kalina said in a statement Friday.

Revenue under Russian accounting standards increased 19 percent to 4.46 billion rubles. (Bloomberg)

Mittal Signs on Steel Mill

Mittal Steel signed an agreement with Ukraine's State Property Fund on Friday, clinching this week's landmark deal to buy the Kryvorizhstal steel mill.

The fund, which is the body overseeing post-Soviet privatization, issued a statement confirming the terms of the sale of the 93.02 percent stake, which sold for $4.8 billion at a fast-paced auction on Monday.

A separate statement issued by the Ukrainian government stipulated that Mittal would complete the transaction in two stages -- an initial payment of 50 percent within 30 days and a final payment within a further 30 days. (Reuters)

Gas Station Firm Sells Stake

Concern Galnaftogaz, a Ukrainian operator of gasoline stations that competes with oil producers Lukoil and TNK-BP, raised $8.5 million for expansion through a secondary share sale.

Galnaftogaz sold 800 million shares, or about 5 percent of the company, for 1.063 cents each, said John Suggitt, managing director at brokerage Concorde Capital, which is managing the sale. The price values the company at $170 million. (Bloomberg)