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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Central Bank to Slash Jobs

The Central Bank will cut thousands of jobs in the coming year, a deputy chairman of the bank said on Friday.

"Seventy six thousand is too many employees, and we plan to cut our staff by several thousand," the bank's first deputy chairman, Alexei Ulyukayev, was quoted by Interfax as telling a parliamentary committee.

According to figures published by Central Banking magazine, the Bank of Russia employed 77,864 people in 2005, already down from 82,094 in 2004. (Reuters)

Foreign Investment Down

Foreign investment into Russia declined an annual 7.9 percent in the first nine months of the year, the State Statistics Service said Friday, without citing a reason.

Foreign investment from January to September was $26.8 billion, the Moscow-based service said in a statement Friday. The country has accumulated $96.5 billion in foreign capital since 1995.

Loans account for 53 percent of the accumulated foreign capital, foreign direct investment for 45 percent and portfolio investment for the rest, the service said. (Bloomberg)

Budget's 3rd Reading

Lawmakers on Friday approved the third of four readings of the proposed 2006 budget, which foresees a 40 percent spending increase paid for by soaring oil revenues.

The State Duma voted 340-76 with two abstentions to approve the third reading. The final reading is set for Dec. 7, after which the bill will be submitted to the upper house. (AP)

State Firms Issuing Shares

The government is considering whether to let state firms raise capital by making public placements of new shares, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref was quoted as saying on Friday.

Such a change would mean that, rather than accruing to the budget, privatizations could be used to strengthen the balance sheets of state-owned companies, Gref told Izvestia in an interview.

"We will allow state companies to make primary share placements without the proceeds ... going to the state budget," Gref told the newspaper.

Gref did not give a timeframe for the change, but went on to say that the government was looking at about 10 such privatization projects, including that of oil company Rosneft and truck maker Kamaz. (Reuters)

Protecting Domestic Trade

Regulators will consider limiting the amount of local shares that companies can convert into foreign-traded depositary receipts as part of an effort to protect domestic trading.

The new rule would require a certain amount of shares to continue to be traded locally whenever a company decides to list stock abroad, said Oleg Vyugin, head of the Federal Service for Financial Markets.

The requirement is needed to "provide a minimum free-float in Russia, and to avoid a situation when all of the company's locally listed shares are taken out through the ADR programs," Vyugin said Friday. (Bloomberg)

Putin Talks Thailand Ties

BUSAN, South Korea -- President Vladimir Putin and Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra discussed ways to bolster bilateral economic ties as top energy companies from their nations signed a deal on prospective cooperation in the oil and gas industries.

During their meeting on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, Putin said bilateral trade volume between the two countries had nearly doubled during the first seven months of the year and was likely to reach some $2 billion this year.

Thaksin invited Putin to visit Thailand next year, and the president accepted the invitation. (AP)

Gazprom, PTT Sign Pact

Gazprom, the world's largest producer of natural gas, and PTT Exploration & Production, Thailand's second-largest gas producer, have signed a cooperation agreement to explore for and produce gas in the Asian nation.

"Gazprom's strategy is to become a global company," Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said in a statement. "Carrying out this agreement with PPT enables Gazprom to widen its presence in the Asia-Pacific region."

State-owned Vneshekonombank will be the financial agent for any projects carried out under the agreement, the statement said. (Bloomberg)

Gazprom Liberalization

Russia said on Friday that the Justice Ministry had given the go-ahead to the removal of foreign investment curbs in gas giant Gazprom's shares, clearing one of the final hurdles to the long-awaited liberalization.

Economic Development and Trade Ministry official Galina Voronchenkova told reporters her ministry would submit final documents to the government on Friday or Monday. Gazprom has promised that the restrictions will go by the end of the year. "The package will be submitted to the government very soon -- today or Monday," she said. (Reuters)

Gazprom Eyes Sakhalin-1

LONDON -- Gazprom plans to buy out the stake owned by state-owned Rosneft in the Sakhalin-1 oil exploration project operated by Exxon Mobil, Interfax reported Friday, citing Alexander Medvedev, a deputy chief executive at Gazprom.

Exxon Mobil and its partners plan to invest $12.8 billion to develop oil and gas fields on Sakhalin Island's shelf in the Sea of Okhotsk. Rosneft holds 20 percent of the venture.

Gazprom would like to have stakes in five oil and gas projects on Sakhalin Island's shelf, the news service said. The gas company may also export gas from the Sakhalin-1 project.

Sergei Kupriyanov, a spokesman at Gazprom, was not immediately available for a comment. (Bloomberg)

Gazprom Eyes Slavneft

LONDON -- Gazprom may buy TNK-BP out of their Slavneft venture, Interfax reported Friday, citing Alexander Medvedev, a deputy chief executive at Gazprom.

Oil producer Slavneft is owned equally by BP's Russian venture and Gazprom, which gained the stake through its $13.1 billion purchase last month of Sibneft.

"The way Slavneft has been managed is not the best option," Medvedev said, as cited by the news service.

Sergei Kupriyanov, a spokesman at Gazprom, was not immediately available to comment. (Bloomberg)

Rosneft, Sinopec Deal

Rosneft has signed an accord with China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. on joint development of oil fields, Vedomosti reported Friday, citing Russian government documents.

The accord was signed in the summer and says the two companies may work together in eastern Siberia, the Arctic shelf, and in the Far East in the Magadan region and on an oil block that is part of the Sakhalin-3 project, the newspaper said. An unidentified Rosneft spokesman declined to comment and no one at China Petroleum could be reached for comment, the newspape said. (Bloomberg)

Statoil-Chevron Arctic Deal

OSLO -- Norwegian energy group Statoil will cooperate with U.S. major Chevron in exploring the Barents Sea, Statoil said on Friday.

The deal defining the Norwegian sector of the Barents Sea as an "area of mutual interest" would strengthen the two companies' drive to participate in developing oil and gas resources in the Arctic, Statoil said.

The two companies are jointly seeking new areas in Norway's 19th licensing round.

"We regard this cooperation as an exciting opportunity to further develop our technology for exploring and developing the Barents Sea," Tim Dodson, a Statoil official, said in a statement. (Reuters)

LUKoil's Vysotsk Exports

Oil producer LUKoil wants to resume crude exports via its Baltic Sea port of Vysotsk and hopes the terminal will also handle oil from other firms, Interfax reported on Friday.

The news agency quoted a company official as saying LUKoil would resume crude exports when prices were more favorable. (Reuters)

For the Record

ANKARA, Turkey -- Turkey and Russia have decided to carry out separate feasibility studies on an oil pipeline from the Turkish Black Sea town of Samsun to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, Turkish Energy Minister Hilmi Guler said on Friday. (Reuters)

Oil firm LUKoil plans to invest $104 million in expanding its network of filling stations in Russia's northwest, RIA-Novosti quoted a company official as saying on Friday. (Reuters)

Natural gas producer Novatek said third-quarter profit rose 65 percent as the company increased production and sold more natural gas. (Bloomberg)

Shares in Victoria Oil & Gas soared over 40 percent on Friday, tripling its market value from its level at the start of the week on hopes the British company is in possession of a substantial Russian gas field. (Reuters)

Polyus, the gold-mining arm of metals giant Norilsk Nickel, has won a licence to develop the Kvartsevaya Gora deposit in the east Siberian Krasnoyarsk region, it said on Friday. (Reuters)