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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Court Refuses JTI Request

The St. Petersburg Arbitrage Court rejected Tuesday's request by Japan Tobacco International to unfreeze the bank accounts of the company's cigarette manufacturing plant, Petro, Vedomosti reported Thursday.

The accounts were frozen because of a $15 million penalty and back tax bill for 2001. "We asked the court to lift the freeze four times and even proposed transferring $15 million to the court's accounts, but were declined," said JTI's general manager in Russia, Rick Caufield.

JTI disagrees with the tax claim and plans to fight it in court. The first hearing is scheduled in the St. Petersburg Arbitrage Court for April 20. (MT)

Reserves Fall $1.5Bln

Foreign currency and gold reserves declined to $137.38 billion in the week to April 1 as the country repaid foreign debts that were due at the end of March, the Central Bank said.

The reserves decreased by $1.52 billion after rising for six straight weeks to a record-high $138.9 billion on March 25, the Central Bank said in a statement. (Bloomberg)

RusAl in Montenegro

Russian Aluminum, which makes about one-eighth of the world's primary aluminum, won a tender for a 65 percent stake in Kombinat Aluminijuma Podgorica, an aluminum maker that accounts for half of Montenegro's industrial output, Interfax reported.

RusAl will pay 48.5 million euros ($62.7 million) for the smelter and invest 55 million euros, Interfax said.

KAP produced 120,000 tons of aluminum in 2003 and 240,000 tons of alumina. Its aluminum output has the potential to rise to as much as 150,000 tons per year and alumina output may double. (Bloomberg)

China Oil Shipments

Russia shipped 741,500 tons (175,330 barrels per day) of crude oil to China in March, 11 percent more than planned, after LUKoil shipped more fuel than it had contracted.

LUKoil shipped 220,000 tons of oil to China last month, Russian Railways, or RZD, the country's rail monopoly, said Thursday in a statement. State-owned Rosneft shipped 241,500 tons of oil to China in March, its first fuel exports to the Asian state.

RZD had planned to ship 630,000 tons of oil to China in March and 500,000 tons in February. (Bloomberg)

First Salym Oil in Pipeline

A Royal Dutch/Shell venture loaded its first oil from new fields in western Siberia into Russia's pipeline system, establishing a benchmark for how much oil it will be allowed to ship through Russian pipelines when commercial production starts in the fourth quarter.

"It's important for us to start building our allocation now," said Robert Kirchner, an adviser to the board of Sibir Energy, Shell's partner in the Salym venture, by telephone from London. (Bloomberg)

Total Finds More Oil

LONDON -- Total and partners found more oil at their Yemen-based project after drilling a third successful well there, said Soco International, a British-based oil exploration company.

The new well, which produced 5,500 barrels of oil per day, was drilled at the Kharir field in Yemen's East Shabwa area this year, Soco said.

"This marks the third consecutive success of the four wells drilled thus far in the program initiated in August 2004 to evaluate" the field, Soco said in a statement distributed Thursday through the Regulatory News Service. One of the wells had to be shut for a technical review, it said. (Bloomberg)

Balkan Pipeline Pact

ATHENS -- Greece, Bulgaria and Russia agreed to sign a memorandum to build a multimillion-dollar Balkan oil pipeline, enabling oil firms to sidestep bottlenecks and boost Russian oil exports, Greece said Thursday.

"The signing will take place at a ministerial level on April 12 in Sofia," Greek Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said.

The Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline from Bulgaria's Black Sea coast to the Aegean Sea is expected to have an initial capacity of 15 million tons, or 300,000 barrels per day, rising to 700,000 bpd over three years. (Reuters)

Oil Duty to Hit $120?

Russia may raise its crude oil export duty to as high as $120 per ton ($16.37 per barrel), RIA-Novosti reported, citing Alexei Nebolsin, the vice president of the Moscow Fuel Association.

The MFA forecasts that the duty will on June 1 increase to between $115 and $120 per ton, the news agency reported. The duty is currently set at a record high of $102.60 per ton.

The higher export duty may cut into oil shipments abroad by making some more expensive export routes, such as rail and river, unprofitable. (Bloomberg)

Kudrin Expects '06 Inflow

Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said the country may have a net capital inflow next year, Interfax reported.

The Economic Development and Trade Ministry disagrees, forecasting a net outflow, Interfax reported Kudrin as saying at Thursday's government session in Moscow.

The Finance Ministry this year expects a net $4.8 billion to leave the country, compared with the Economic Development and Trade Ministry's forecast of $7.9 billion, Interfax said. Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref told the meeting that the government would run a surplus of 1.6 percent of gross domestic product next year. (Bloomberg)

Gref: Ruble to Rise 9%

The ruble's inflation-adjusted rate against a basket of currencies will likely rise 9 percent this year on windfall revenue from oil exports, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said.

Russia expects to boost gold and foreign currency reserves $51 billion this year, Gref told reporters during a government meeting in Moscow on Thursday.

"We'll have to buy all this money because there's a huge inflow of petrodollars that drive the ruble higher," Gref said. "Oil prices are just too high. A range of $30 to $35 a barrel would be optimal for Russia." (Bloomberg)

Ukraine Renationalization

The Ukrainian government on April 11 will name the companies it plans to nationalize, Interfax reported, citing Economy Minister Serhiy Teryokhin.

"I can't reveal the companies that will be on the list until Monday," Teryokhin told reporters in Moscow on Thursday, Interfax said.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has repeatedly said that his government may cancel the sale of dozens of former state assets. (Bloomberg)

Ukraine Oil Spill

A tanker had a "serious" spill of fuel oil while loading at Port Yuzhny on the Black Sea, Ukraine's second-biggest port, a harbor official said.

More than 2 tons of heavy oil products spilled into the sea because of an error made by the crew of the Benin-flagged Pyotr Zavyalov tanker, Interfax reported, citing Pavel Bulanovych, a regional head of the government agency in charge of protecting the Black Sea's natural resources.

The port is continuing to load cargoes, the harbor official said. (Bloomberg)

MTS Subscriptions Up 4%

Mobile TeleSystems, Eastern Europe's largest mobile phone company, increased its subscribers in March by 4.1 percent from the previous month as demand rose in regions outside Moscow.

MTS added 1.54 million users in March, bringing its total number of subscribers to 38.69 million, it said in a statement Thursday.

MTS subscribers outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg rose 6 percent to 20.2 million. The number of customers rose 2 percent in Moscow, 1.9 percent in St. Petersburg and 2.4 percent in Ukraine. (Bloomberg)

Slot Machine Deal

SYDNEY, Australia -- Aristocrat Leisure, the world's second-largest slot machine maker, signed a Russian distribution agreement with Smartgames to expand in the world's fastest-growing gaming market.

SIA Megaimpex, a unit of closely held Smartgames, will have exclusive rights to Sydney-based Aristocrat's games in Russia, the company said in a statement Thursday.

Russia's gaming market was worth $4.5 billion last year and will rise to $9 billion by 2007, Deutsche Bank said in a report on Jan. 25. (Bloomberg)