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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Industrial Production Slows

Industrial production in March rose at a slower annual pace than the month before because of faltering growth in oil production, adding evidence that the $533 billion economy is slowing.

Industrial production rose 4 percent in March from the same month a year ago, after advancing an annual 5.1 percent in the previous month, the State Statistics Service said in a statement Monday. Output rose 8.1 percent from February, after rising 3.8 percent in February from the previous month. (Bloomberg)

Russia to Write Off Debt

Russia is prepared to write off as much as $95 billion in debts that the world's poorest countries owe it, Kommersant reported, citing Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin.

Kudrin told officials at the Group of Seven meeting in Washington last weekend that the country was prepared to join their initiative to write off debts owed by the poorest countries, the newspaper said. The nations have not agreed which countries' debts should be written off, Kudrin said, the paper reported. (Bloomberg)

Central Bank Resists U.S.

The Central Bank said it would not follow a U.S. demand that it open up its banking industry more to foreign banks, one of the key conditions for entering the World Trade Organization, Izvestia reported.

The Central Bank believes the demand is "excessive," said Andrei Kozlov, the bank's first deputy chairman, in an interview with the newspaper after meeting with Group of Seven officials in Washington, Izvestia reported. Foreign banks now are allowed to open subsidiaries, which are in turn fully controlled by the Central Bank, the paper said. (Bloomberg)

LUKoil No. 1 Refiner

LUKoil was the country's biggest oil refiner in the first quarter, making 8.26 million tons of oil products, according to Petromarket, a Moscow-based consulting firm.

Yukos was the second-biggest, with 7.64 million tons, and TNK-BP the third-biggest, with 6.5 million tons, Petromarket's information showed. TNK-BP's refining includes the company's share of Slavneft, where TNK-BP owns 50 percent and Sibneft the rest. (Bloomberg)

Refinery Claim Settled

Sibir Energy said its venture with Moscow City Hall will keep control of the Moscow Oil Refinery, Russia's seventh-largest last year, after settling a creditor's claim and ensuring the refinery will pay dividends.

The refinery will pay dividends on preferred shares this year, avoiding an automatic conversion of preferred stock to common shares, which carry voting rights, Sibir said Monday in a statement. (Bloomberg)

Sibir Strikes Oil at Salym

LONDON -- Sibir Energy drilled four successful wells at the Salym fields, saying they "exceeded expectations."

The wells are producing at a rate "in excess" of 500 barrels of oil per day, the company said in a statement on the Regulatory News Service on Monday. Sibir has drilled 19 exploration wells in the Salym complex, which includes three separate fields.

The activity is a joint venture between Sibir and Royal Dutch/Shell Group. The three Salym fields are expected to hold about 950 million barrels of recoverable oil. (Bloomberg)

LUKoil in Iran

LUKoil, wants to take part in both onshore and offshore oil exploration tenders in Iran, Itar-Tass reported Monday.

"We consider the Middle East and Persian Gulf region of particular interest for our company," the agency quoted Vladimir Simakov, a senior executive with LUKoil's overseas exploration and production arm, as saying in Teheran at an industry conference.

The company may sell its refined and petrochemical products in Iran, Simakov said, the agency reported. (AP, Bloomberg)

Gazprom in Israel?

TEL AVIV, Israel -- Gazprom may team up with Israel's Isramco to take part in building a pipeline between the cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod, the newspaper Yediot Aharonot reported, without citing anyone for the information.

Gazprom executives will join President Vladimir Putin on a visit to Israel next week, where they plan to decide whether to join the pipeline project and how much to invest in it, the paper said. The first part of the project will cost altogether $100 million, it said. (Bloomberg)

E.ON-Gazprom Deal

FRANKFURT -- E.ON plans to let Gazprom sell natural gas to end-users in Central and Eastern Europe in exchange for a stake in a Siberian gas field, Financial Times Deutschland said, citing unidentified people at E.ON.

E.ON's proposal to sell gas together with Gazprom would give the Russian company access to end-customers, who generate higher profit margins, in countries such as Hungary, the newspaper said. (Bloomberg)

Mechel Ups Izhstal Stake

Mechel, Russia's fifth-largest steelmaker, raised its stake in specialty unit Izhstal to 87 percent, as it upgrades production facilities at the plant to broaden its range of products.

Mechel won an auction for 25 percent of Izhstal with a bid of $16 million, the company said in a PR Newswire statement, without saying who sold the stake. Last May, Mechel bought 27 percent of the plant from the republic government of Urdmurtia. (Bloomberg)

Svyaz Profit Falls 10%

Svyazinvest, Russia's national telephone company, said 2004 profit fell by one-tenth as costs and capital investment rose faster than revenue, Interfax reported.

The holding company's 2004 net income to Russian accounting standards was 17.5 billion rubles ($630 million), the news service said Monday, citing a company statement.

Revenue rose 23 percent to 186 billion rubles, and spending rose 26 percent to 141 billion rubles. Capital investment rose 28 percent to 59 billion rubles, Interfax said. (Bloomberg)

Alfa Bank Profit Up 44%

Alfa Bank said that profit rose 44 percent last year as it attracted more customers and increased lending.

Net income rose to $153 million from $106 million in 2003 under international accounting standards, the bank said in a statement. Alfa had $4.67 billion in outstanding loans last year, it said. (Bloomberg)

EU Clears Juice Deal

BRUSSELS -- The European Union on Monday cleared the acquisition of Russian juicemaker Multon by Coca-Cola and Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling.

Financial details were not disclosed, but analysts have estimated the deal to be worth $650 million.

The cost of the purchase will be equally split between Coca-Cola HBC, the world's third-largest bottler of Coke products, and Coca-Cola, which owns 24 percent of the Greek bottler. (AP)

Brazil Meat Ban to Be Lifted

As of Wednesday, Russia will lift a temporary ban on beef and pork imports from all of Brazil except for eight states, the Agriculture Ministry said Monday.

A ministry statement said the ban, imposed from Sept. 20 last year over foot-and-mouth disease concerns, will be kept on beef and pork imports from the states of Para, Amazonas, Acre, Rondonia, Tokantins, Maranhao, Amapa and Roraima.

Russia, a big importer of Brazilian beef and pork, has so far lifted the ban from states that have been confirmed free from the disease. (Reuters)

48% Hambro Profit Rise

LONDON -- Russian gold producer Peter Hambro Mining reported a 48 percent rise in retained annual profit Monday as the miner announced plans to increase production capacity.

Peter Hambro, which concentrates its mining assets in Russia's Far East, said retained profit grew to $15.32 million in 2004.

Pretax profit rose 50 percent to $24.3 million. (Reuters)

Miner Extends Subscription

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Gold miner AngloGold Ashanti has extended the deadline for the second part of its share subscription in London-listed Trans-Siberian Gold until April 29, it said Monday.

The second subscription is conditional on TSG agreeing to a revised financing and implementation plan for its Asacha project in the Russian Far East.

Higher costs at Asacha delayed the AngloGold subscription in December. (Reuters)