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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Trade Surplus Hits $11Bln

The trade surplus grew to a record $10.9 billion in March from $8.9 billion in February as exports soared on the high price of oil, the country's major export commodity.

Exports reached a record $20.3 billion in March, up 46 percent from the same month last year, the Central Bank said on its web site Friday. Exports rose 51 percent to $17.6 billion to countries outside the Commonwealth of Independent States. (Bloomberg)

Ruble Rises 9% vs. Euro

The Central Bank said the ruble rose 6.6 percent against a basket of currencies in January to April of this year, when adjusted for inflation.

The ruble rose 4.3 percent against the dollar in the first four months of the year and rose 9 percent against the euro in the same period. (Bloomberg)

Faster Growth in April?

LONDON -- The economy probably grew in April at its fastest annual pace this year, led by manufacturing and services, which may ease concerns that the nation's six-year boom is slowing, said a British-based unit of the Russian Central Bank.

Growth may have accelerated to 5.7 percent in April, from 5.1 percent in March and 4.2 percent in January, Moscow Narodny Bank said in a statement, citing its GDP indicator. The indicator is derived from surveys of Russia's manufacturing and services industries. (Bloomberg)

New Rosenergoatom Chief

Federal Atomic Energy Agency chief Alexander Rumyantsev on Friday appointed Stanislav Antipov the new chief of Rosenergoatom, the state concern for the generation of electric and thermal power at nuclear power plants, Rosenergoatom said in a statement.

Formerly the director of the Kalinin nuclear power plant in the Tver region, Antipov had served as Rosenergoatom deputy general director since 2002 and was selected in a contest called in February this year.

Antipov told Itar-Tass that his main task would be to incorporate Rosenergoatom and increase the number of power units at Russian nuclear power plants. (MT)

$250Bln Squirreled Away

Russians may have as much as $50 billion hidden away and may hold a further $200 billion overseas, International Monetary Fund adviser Arnaud de Villepoix said in a note on the Central Bank's web site.

Russian citizens kept some 2 trillion rubles ($71.9 billion) in bank accounts at the end of last year, a 30 percent increase from the previous year as personal incomes rose, Villepoix said in the note.

The small percent of savings in bank deposits leaves room for significant growth, he added. (Bloomberg)

Yukos Unit Bankrupt?

Yukos' biggest refining unit may declare bankruptcy, after a court upheld a 9.9 billion ruble ($358 million) debt claim from a Liechtenstein-registered company, Interfax reported, citing the unit's director.

Irkutsk-based Angarskaya Petrochemicals may have to sell some assets to pay the bill, the news service said Friday, citing a statement from Angarskaya general director Fyodor Serduk.

Angarskaya will use all legal means to defend itself against the May 3 court ruling in favor of Liechtenstein-registered New Century Securities Management Anstalt, Interfax said. (Bloomberg)

Gazprom Tax Claim Cut

Tax authorities reduced a back tax claim against Gazprom's second-largest unit almost eightfold, Vedomosti reported, citing company lawyer Yury Vorobyov.

A tax inspectorate on May 3 presented the Gazprom unit, Urengoigazprom, with a final claim of 300 million rubles ($10.8 million) for 2001, compared with the 2.3 billion ruble bill the company received in February, the newspaper cited Vorobyov as saying.

Urengoi has appealed the claim in court, Vorobyov said, Vedomosti reported. (Bloomberg)

Battle for Company Data

The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service is battling for access to companies' production data, which the State Statistics Service stopped sharing, citing confidentiality concerns, Vedomosti reported.

The anti-monopoly service will propose amendments to the law on statistics that would require the statistics service to share company data for anti-monopoly investigations, Vedomosti reported, citing Alexei Sushkevich, head of the anti-monopoly service's analytical department. (Bloomberg)

$1Bln RZD Investment

Russian Railways, or RZD, the country's rail monopoly, will spend almost $1 billion upgrading it Moscow-St. Petersburg link for high-speed trains built by Siemens.

RZD will spend as much as 26 billion rubles ($936 million) upgrading track, installing a centralized traffic-control system and building other infrastructure such as bridges to handle trains that run at 250 kilometers per hour, it said in a statement Friday.

"The main criteria of these tasks is to finish them by the end of 2007," the company said in the statement. (Bloomberg)

Sovkomflot Orders Tankers

LONDON -- Sovkomflot, Russia's largest tanker company by capacity, agreed to order liquefied petroleum gas tankers and multipurpose vessels from the country's Severnaya Verf, Lloyd's List said, without saying how it got the information.

The contracts boost Sovkomflot's spending on new ships in the next five years to almost $1 billion, the newspaper said, without saying how many vessels were ordered. Chief executive Sergei Frank did not confirm the orders, Lloyd's List said. (Bloomberg)

Alfa Behind U.K. Ferry Bid

LONDON -- Alfa Group, the Russian company chaired by billionaire Mikhail Fridman, is backing a private equity bid for Wightlink, which operates ferries between the southern English coast and the Isle of Wight, The Daily Telegraph reported Monday, without saying where it got the information.

Alfa is backing London-based Pamplona Capital Management, which is bidding for Wightlink, the newspaper said. Pamplona was organized by Russian investor Alex Knaster, the Telegraph said.

The ferry is expected to be sold for about 230 million pounds ($434 million), the newspaper said. (Bloomberg)

$37M Alcoa Investment

CHICAGO -- Alcoa, the world's biggest aluminum maker, said it would invest $37 million to improve heattreated plate and sheet output at the newly acquired Belaya Kalitva plant in Russia.

The improvements are part of a plan for more than $80 million in capital and technology investment at the Belaya Kalitva and Samara facilities this year, Alcoa said Monday in a statement.

Belaya Kalitva will begin to supply North American automakers with specialty wheels, Alcoa said. The project is part of the company's $2.5 billion in planned capital spending this year. (Bloomberg)

Barrick's Highland Stake

Barrick Gold, the world's third-biggest gold producer, agreed to pay cash to raise its stake in Highland Gold Mining, a London-based company mining in Russia, to 20 percent.

Highland Gold will use the $50 million raised from the sale of 11.4 million new shares at 230 pence ($4.30) each to reduce short-term debt and develop projects in Russia, the company said in a statement through the Regulatory News Service.

Highland said the agreement was "a demonstration of Barrick's commitment to Highland Gold." (Bloomberg)

EBRD Loan for Murdoch?

LONDON -- News Corp., the media group led by Rupert Murdoch, may seek $130 million from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to fund potential acquisitions for its Russian business, the Financial Times said, citing bank documents.

The loan will be used to help create an outdoor advertising network throughout several former Soviet republics by acquiring local operators, the FT reported, citing the documents.

The bank may consider the $130 million secured loan at a meeting next week, the FT said. (Bloomberg)

40 Million MTS Users

Mobile TeleSystems, the country's largest mobile phone company, said subscriptions topped 40 million after rising 5 percent in April on surging demand in the regions. MTS added 1.94 million users in April for a total of 40.63 million, the company said in a statement Friday.

MTS subscribers outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg rose 6.5 percent to 21.5 million. The number of users rose 3.4 percent in Moscow and 4.4 percent in St. Petersburg. (Bloomberg)