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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Privatization Law to Duma

President Vladimir Putin has charged Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov with forwarding a new law that would draw a line over controversial 1990s-era privatization deals for the State Duma's approval, the Kremlin said Monday, Interfax reported.

The new law would reduce the statute of limitations on privatizations deals from 10 years to three. (MT)

Oil Price Halt Plans

The government gave key departments a week to come up with ways to stop domestic prices for oil products from rising, RIA-Novosti said Monday.

The Industry and Energy, Economic Development and Trade, and Agriculture ministries, as well as the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service and the State Statistics Service have all been told to submit proposals, the agency said, citing an unidentified government spokesman. (Bloomberg)

Russia, Syria to Settle Debt

DAMASCUS, Syria -- Syria and Russia will sign a final agreement by the end of April to settle Syria's $3.6 billion debt to Russia, Russia's Regional Development Minister Vladimir Yakovlev said Monday.

Yakovlev said the finance ministers of both countries will sign the agreement in Damascus.

Syria will repay half the debt to Russia in 10 years, and the rest will be deposited in Syrian banks for use in Russian investment projects in the country. (AP)

JTI Plant Still Running

Japan Tobacco Inc. said Petro, its cigarette plant in St. Petersburg, will continue to operate after tax authorities froze the factory's bank accounts over a bill.

Kommersant reported Monday that the plant may have to halt production as early as this week, citing Vadim Botsan-Kharchenko, director of communications for JTI in Russia. The tax authorities are claiming $15 million in back taxes and fines from Petro, Kommersant said.

"Petro continues to operate, is not halting operations and remains confident in finding a permanent solution to the current situation that will allow it to continue to operate and grow its business in Russia," JTI said Monday in a statement. (Bloomberg)

Pichugin Appeal

Lawyers for Alexei Pichugin, a former executive of the beleaguered oil giant Yukos who was convicted of murder appealed his 20-year prison sentence Monday.

Pichugin, once a top security officer for Yukos, has dismissed the charges as part of a Kremlin-instigated crackdown on Yukos.

Defense lawyer Mikhail Zhidkov said they had appealed to the Supreme Court, asking for a new trial. Lawyers have charged that there were numerous procedural violations with Pichugin's trial, including what they described as an illegal decision to end it. (AP)

Mazeikiu Resumes Work

VILNIUS, Lithuania -- Mazeikiu Nafta, Yukos' Lithuanian unit, narrowly avoided having to halt refining for a second time this year when pipeline deliveries of Russian crude were renewed after a three-day disruption.

Spokesman Giedrius Karsokas said the plant could now resume full operation after slowing the pace of refining over the weekend as crude reserves ran low.

"Some legal nuances were worked out, and the crude began to flow again," Karsokas said. A contract between LatRosTrans, a pipeline operator in neighboring Latvia, and an oil trading company had expired, causing the problem, he said. (Bloomberg)

Bigger Tanker for LUKoil

LONDON -- LUKoil plans this month to load its first 50,000-ton tanker with crude oil at its Baltic port of Vysotsk as the company boosts exports to Europe and the United States.

The first tanker will arrive on April 14, Polina Lavrova, a spokeswoman for LUKoil's northwestern unit, said Monday. The company had been loading LUKoil-owned 20,000-ton tankers. (Bloomberg)

Rosneft Unit Production Up

Rosneft-Purneftegaz, a unit of state-owned oil company Rosneft, produced 0.7 percent more crude in the first quarter than it did in the year-earlier period, Interfax reported, citing the company.

Purneftegaz produced 2.47 million tons of oil (201,400 barrels per day) in the first three months of the year, the news service said. Last year, Purneftegaz produced 10.1 million tons, 0.8 percent more than in 2003, it said. (Bloomberg)

Transneft Dividend Cut

Transneft, the oil pipeline monopoly, will cut its dividend for 2004 by 80 percent from a year earlier, Interfax reported, citing an unidentified person close to the company's board.

Transneft will pay shareholders a total of 828 million rubles ($29.7 million) for 2004, compared with 3.96 billion rubles a year earlier, Interfax said.

Owners of ordinary shares will receive a total of 405 million rubles, 83 percent less than in 2003, while preferred shareholders will get 423 million rubles, down 74 percent, Interfax said. It did not give per-share figures. (Bloomberg)

China to Get Kazakh Oil

LONDON -- China plans to get 150,000 barrels per day of oil from Kazakhstan through a pipeline that will be built by December to meet rising Chinese demand for fuel, a Kazakh official said.

Officials from China National Petroleum Corp. and Kazmunaigaz were discussing crude shipments Monday in Astana, the Kazakh capital, said Gulsum Zhalyaletdinova, a spokeswoman for the Kazakh Energy Ministry.

"Russian companies have also shown interest in shipping oil through the pipeline," Zhalyaletdinova said in a telephone interview. The pipeline will be able to pump 200,000 bpd to start, she said. (Bloomberg)

RZD to Put $1Bln in Siberia

Russian Railways, or RZD, plans to invest up to 30 billion rubles ($1.1 billion) on railways in eastern Siberia to help increase the amount of oil shipments from the region to Asia.

RZD by 2008 plans to ship as much as 30 million tons per year (600,000 barrels per day) of oil from Skovorodino, near the Chinese border, to Perevoznaya on the Pacific coast, the company said in a statement posted on its web site Monday. The fuel could then be put on tankers destined for Asian countries such as China or Japan. (Bloomberg)

RusAl Closes Aussie Deal

Russian Aluminum said that it had closed a deal to buy 20 percent of the world's largest alumina smelter, Australia's Queensland Alumina Limited, securing a vital raw materials supply.

The purchase will give RusAl access to some 770,000 tons of alumina per year, an amount that is expected to be eventually increased to 1 million tons. The alumina will be available in full for delivery to RusAl's smelters in 2008 and will boost the company's raw material base by 22 percent, the company said in a statement Friday. (AP)

SUAL in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- SUAL wants to replace Pechiney to build a $2.2 billion aluminum smelter at Coega port in South Africa's Eastern Cape Province, Business Day said, citing SUAL president Brian Gilbertson.

France's Pechiney has stalled a decision on whether it will go ahead with the smelter project since it was bought by Canada's Alcan in December 2003, the Johannesburg-based newspaper said. Gilbertson had approached South Africa's trade and industry department about taking over the project, Business Day quoted him as saying. (Bloomberg)

Miner's '04 Profit Up 200%

Russia's biggest silver producer, Polimetall, said Monday that operating profit jumped more than 200 percent to $78.3 million in 2004 as it boosted precious metals sales.

In a statement detailing preliminary results based on Russian accounting standards, the company, also one of the country's biggest gold producers, said sales increased more than 130 percent to $226 million last year.

Polimetall raised gold production by 56 percent to 6.6 tons last year and silver output by 47 percent to 537 tons as it expanded on the back of high global precious metals prices. (Reuters)

Cutting Nickel Export Tariff

Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov has signed an order scrapping a 5 percent export tariff on nickel alloys to support Russia's sole ferronickel producer, Yuzhuralnikel, the government said Monday.

The government web site said the tariff would be abolished one month after the order is officially published. (Reuters)