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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Services Hum Along

MOSCOW (Bloomberg) -- Russia's service industries expanded at a faster pace in January than December but were below the average for last year, an index of purchasing managers by Moscow Narodny Bank showed.

The Purchasing Managers Index was at 57.1 in January, compared with 57 in December and 2004's average monthly growth of 58.5, the bank said in a statement Thursday. A reading above 50 signals growth. The August 2004 level of 58.9 was the highest since December 2001.

Gazprom Goes Czech

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Gas monopoly Gazprom has bought a 37.5-percent stake in Czech distributor Gas-Invest as the world's biggest gas firm seeks access to European customers, a Gazprom official said.

The official at Gazprom export arm Gazexport said the acquisition was made via Berlin-based subsidiary Zarubejgas-Erdgashandell, but declined to disclose the pricing details or the previous holder of the stake.

Gazprombank Probed

MOSCOW (Bloomberg) -- The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service halted an investigation into Gazprom, the world's biggest natural gas producer, and its acquisition of more than 25 percent in Moscow's dominant power utility, Mosenergo.

The service will instead investigate Gazprombank, a Gazprom unit, because the shares are held on the balance sheet of the bank, said service head Igor Artemyev.

Gazprom spent 5.81 billion rubles ($207.5 million) between July 1 and Oct. 31 to increase its stake in Mosenergo by 6.62 percent, the gas producer said last year. A stake of more than 25 percent in a company enables its owner to block board decisions such as rulings on acquisitions and sales of assets, under national legislation.

$700M Gas Investment

MOSCOW (Bloomberg) --Gazprom's joint venture with BASF's Wintershall unit plans to invest $700 million to develop a natural gas field in western Siberia, Wintershall said Thursday.

The investment, planned over the next 40 years, will enable the partners' Achimgaz venture to extract 200 billion cubic meters of gas and 40 million tons of gas condensate, a hydrocarbon mixture similar to light crude oil, Wintershall said on its web site.

Achimgaz is developing the Achimov part of the giant Urengoi gas field.

VimpelCom GPRS

MOSCOW (MT) -- The number of VimpelCom's GPRS users broke the 2.2 million mark this month, Russia's No. 2 mobile provider said Thursday.

GPRS technology can be used to transfer multimedia messages or get access to the Internet at roughly the speed of a dial-up connection.

By the end of 2004, 44 percent of Russia's GPRS users were VimpelCom subscribers, according to IKS Consulting. Russia's No. 1 mobile provider, MTS, held 24 percent of the GPRS market and No. 3 provider MegaFon 31 percent, IKS Consulting said.

The three providers are currently testing EDGE technology, which supports data transfer of 200 kilobytes per second, in several regions of Russia.

Volgotanker Trouble

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- A regional court has said the government does not need a further court decision to enforce a $23 million back tax claim against Russia's biggest shipping firm Volgotanker, an industry lobby said Wednesday.

The decision reverses the court's ruling of Jan. 18, in which Volgotanker blocked the tax claim. That victory was short-lived, since the Samara regional tax service froze Volgotanker's accounts on Jan. 20.

Shell Woos Korea Gas

LONDON (Bloomberg) -- Royal Dutch/Shell Group is willing to consider giving up some equity in its Sakhalin-2 liquefied natural gas project to Korea Gas to help it win a long-term contract to supply LNG to Korea.

The Shell-led Sakhalin venture in Russia is one of five suppliers, including Yemen LNG, vying to sell LNG for 20 years to Kogas, the world's biggest buyer of the fuel.

"We have said that, as with our other LNG projects, we would be prepared to consider it, subject to commercial terms, should there be an attractive sales offer," Shell's head of gas and power, Linda Cook, said Thursday.

8 MiGs for Yemen

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia has delivered eight MiG fighter jets to Yemen under a contract which envisages the delivery of 20 such planes, Interfax-Military news agency reported Thursday.

Vladimir Barkovsky, the Mikoyan design bureau's engineering director, said that two of the MiG-29SMT aircraft already delivered to Yemen were two-seat trainers and the rest were single-seat fighters, the news agency reported. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and President Vladimir Putin have both called for closer bilateral ties.