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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Trade Surplus Swells

Russia's trade surplus increased by nearly half in the first five months of the year, exceeding the Economic Development and Trade Ministry's forecast by $6 billion as oil prices rose to records and exports of other natural resources surged.

Russia earned $55.2 billion more from exports than it spent on imports in the period, an increase of 45 percent on the year, according to Federal Customs Service data. (Bloomberg)

High Tech Bill Passed

The State Duma on Friday passed a bill on special economic zones, Interfax reported.

The law would provide tax breaks and other benefits to technology companies that win government approval to be residents of special economic zones.

The law, aimed at attracting new investments into high tech, must still be approved by the Federation Council and signed by President Vladimir Putin to become law. (MT)

Novatek Aims for $1.5Bln

Gas firm Novatek will seek to raise up to $1.5 billion in an initial public offering in London this month after it said last week that the company was valued at $4.5 billion to $5.1 billion.

Novatek, which has a small number of shares listed in Moscow, has set a price range for its placement of Global Depository Receipts in London at $14.75 to $16.75 per GDR, indicating it would be prepared to accept a discount to the price of local shares. (Reuters)

Gas Pipeline Back Up

Gazprom resumed gas supplies to Azerbaijan on Thursday evening after a ruptured pipeline was repaired.

The gas pipeline ruptured on Wednesday in Dagestan, the Emergency Situations Ministry said. A stretch of the Mozdok-Kazimagomed pipeline started to leak about 8 kilometers northwest of the town of Kaspiisk, cutting deliveries to Azerbaijan and to the southern areas of Dagestan. There was no fire and no victims, the ministry said.

"Gas supplies were fully restored," Olga Afanasyeva, a spokeswoman for Gazexport, a gas trading unit of Gazprom, said Friday. (Bloomberg)

MMK Curbs Output

Magnitogorsk Iron & Steel Works, or MMK, Russia's second-biggest steelmaker, produced less steel and pig iron than planned in the first half, after suppliers stopped shipments of iron pellets in May.

Crude steel production declined 2.9 percent in the period to 5.49 million tons and pig iron production fell 5 percent to 4.61 million tons, MMK said on its web site Friday. Rolled steel production was 5.25 million tons. (Bloomberg)

Iranian KamAZ Trucks

Iranian automaker Iran Khodro Diesel has signed an agreement to begin producing KamAZ trucks under license, Interfax reported Friday.

Iran Khodro Diesel plans to assemble up to 1,500 trucks in 2006 and increase output to 5,000 vehicles later, the news agency said. The Iranian auto producer also plans to manufacture some KamAZ components to sell back to Russia, the news agency reported. (MT)

New Amtel Investor

SINGAPORE -- Singapore state agency Temasek Holdings has joined a group of private equity groups in investing $70 million in the Russian tire production group Amtel Holland Holdings, an Amtel statement said.

In March, Temasek bought a 2.6 percent stake worth about $372 million in Russia's top mobile phone firm, Mobile TeleSystems.

Temasek joined Alfa Bank Holdings in the latest round of fund raising by Amtel. Other investors in the group include Templeton Asset Management and Citicorp International Finance Corp. (Reuters)

Russia Slips in Retail Rating

NEW DELHI -- India has displaced Russia as the most attractive destination for overseas mass product and food retailers, consultant A.T. Kearney said in a report Friday.

The report, an annual study of the attractiveness of 30 emerging markets, attributed India's rise to a government proposal to allow foreign investment in the retail industry.

Russia, Ukraine and China followed India in the Global Retail Development Index, while Pakistan, Brazil, Indonesia and the Philippines were at the bottom of the list. (Bloomberg)

4% More MTS Users

Mobile TeleSystems, Eastern Europe's largest mobile phone company, said subscriptions rose 4 percent in June on surging demand in Ukraine.

MTS added 1.71 million users in June for a total of 44.07 million, the company said in a statement on Friday.

MTS and its largest competitor, VimpelCom, are adding subscribers as economies in the former Soviet states expand, boosting incomes and driving demand for mobile phones. The company said subscriptions in Ukraine rose 6.6 percent to 9.52 million. (Bloomberg)

Ban on Gambling Ads

The State Duma on Friday approved new restrictions on gambling advertising, Prime-Tass reported.

The changes to the advertising law ban gambling ads from television and radio between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.

Gaming businesses are prohibited from advertising in the press, except gambling industry publications; in outdoor ads; and inside buildings that are not gambling establishments.

The new provisions must be approved by the Federation Council and signed by President Vladimir Putin to become law. (MT)