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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Gref Says CPI to Increase

Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said consumer prices would probably increase in March at half the pace of February, Interfax reported Monday.

The consumer price index probably will advance 0.6 percent this month, after the government curbed gains in prices for state-regulated monopolies and municipal services, the news agency said, citing comments by Gref in a meeting of President Vladimir Putin and senior government ministers.

Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko said at the same meeting that there were not any grounds for gains in the prices of fuel and lubricants in the next two months, Interfax reported. (Bloomberg)

Fradkov: Hold Oil Prices

Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov urged oil companies to hold down prices to curb inflation and help farmers complete the spring sowing campaign.

The situation "is critical," Fradkov told executives from the country's biggest oil producers Monday, according to the government web site.

The government, which has missed its inflation target for the last two years, wants to curb annual inflation to 8.5 percent this year, in part by stepping up efforts to break up local monopolies. (Bloomberg)

Foreign Trade Surplus Rises

The country's foreign trade surplus in January and February rose to $24.1 billion, from $16.2 billion for the same period a year ago, the Economic Development and Trade Ministry estimated in a monthly review on Monday.

The foreign trade surplus for January 2006 stood at $14.3 billion, according to the Federal Customs Service. (Reuters)

CB Injects $75M Into Banks

The Central Bank injected 2.1 billion rubles ($75.43 million) into the country's banking system through a repo auction on Monday, amid growing demand for rubles as the monthly tax payments week starts.

The one-day repo rate, set at 6.09 percent at Monday's auction, is the Central Bank's main tool for steering the money market. The auction was last held on March 2.

However, only a limited number of the country's biggest banks have enough government securities in their portfolios to participate in the auction, while the vast majority of Russia's 1,200 banks are not eligible.

Russia is flush with liquidity most of the time as record oil revenues flow steadily into the country's coffers but when companies pay their value-added, mineral extraction and sales taxes at the end of each month, the demand for rubles soars. (Reuters)

Gazprom Seeks E.On Stakes

FRANKFURT -- Gazprom wants West European E.On stakes in exchange for its natural gas field in Siberia, Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported Monday.

Gazprom is not satisfied with E.On's current offer of stakes in Central European businesses such as Mol, the newspaper said, without saying where it obtained the information. E.On spokesman Josef Nelles was not immediately available to comment.

E.On plans to buy a 24.5 percent stake in Gazprom's Yuzhno-Russkoye field as part of its strategy to gain more control of its gas sources.

Gazprom wants direct access to West European energy markets, where the use of natural gas to heat homes and fire power plants is increasing. (Bloomberg)

Gazprom Eyes Italy's Hera

MILAN, Italy -- Gazprom would like to buy Hera, which would allow the Russian company to supply natural gas directly to consumers in Italy, Corriere della Sera reported, without saying where it got the information.

The Italian city-controlled utility has been seeking direct supply contracts with producers like Gazprom in order to offer more competitive prices, the Italian newspaper said.

Hera, formed by the merger of a dozen Italian municipal utilities, in November agreed to buy its counterpart Meta, which is based in the neighboring city of Modena.

Hera shares had their steepest gain in nine months after the report. (Bloomberg)

UES Proposes Share Issue

Unified Energy Systems has proposed that eight generating companies that are being created under power sector reforms issue new shares to raise funds for investment, the company said Monday.

"We have formed the list and plan to submit it to the government," UES spokeswoman Marita Nagoga said.

The list includes OGK-3, OGK-4, OGK-5, which are wholesale generating companies, and TGK-1, TGK-3, TGK-8, TGK-9, and TGK-10, all of which are regional generators.

State-controlled UES said it expected some of the companies on the list to announce additional share issues as soon as this year. It said shares could be sold either on the open market or to strategic investors. (Reuters)

Alrosa Stake for Government

Vneshtorgbank will give its 10 percent stake in diamond monopoly Alrosa to the federal government before its initial public offering, Vedomosti said Monday, citing unidentified people familiar with the plan.

Vneshtorgbank, once the Soviet Union's foreign trade bank, bought the shares two months ago from Alrosa's MAK-Bank subsidiary, the newspaper said.

Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, a member of Alrosa's board, said Feb. 7 that the government planned to increase its stake in Alrosa to more than 50 percent and end restrictions on exporting and importing diamonds.

The state owns 37 percent of Alrosa; the government of the Sakha republic, where Alrosa is based, owns 32 percent; employees own 23 percent; and eight districts within Sakha own the remaining 8 percent. Vneshtorgbank plans to sell shares to the public as early as the first quarter of 2007. (Bloomberg)

New Head at RusAl's Unit

Russian Aluminum has appointed the head of its alumina division, Steven Hodgson, as the new head of its representative office in Australia, the company said Monday in a statement.

He will focus on expanding the Queensland Alumina refinery, in which the aluminum producer holds a 20 percent stake, RusAl said.

Pavel Ovchinnikov, currently head of the Achinsk alumina complex, will succeed Hodgson as of April 3, the statement said. (MT)

Comstar Offer on MGTS

Comstar United TeleSystems has offered 490 rubles ($17.63) per share for the stock of Moscow City Telephone that it does not already own.

Comstar raised its stake in Moscow City Telephone, or MGTS, to 63.65 percent of outstanding common shares after buying stock in February and March, Comstar said Monday in an e-mailed statement. (Bloomberg)

Wholesaler Ups Rosta Stake

HELSINKI -- Finnish-based drug wholesaler Tamro said Monday that it had increased its stake in Russian drug wholesaler Rosta to 42.5 percent from 18 percent.

Tamro, which is owned by privately held German pharmaceutical distributor Phoenix Group, said in a statement that Rosta had annual sales of about 400 million euros ($481.7 million). It did not disclose the value of the deal. (Reuters)

Baltic Oil Terminal IPO

LONDON -- Baltic Oil Terminal, a London company that plans to charge a handling fee for handling other companies' oil shipments, wants to raise ?21 million ($36.6 million) in an initial public offering in April, the London-based Times said. The company forecasts it will be worth about ?50 million when its shares begin to trade on the Alternative Investment Market in late April or early May, The Times said.

Baltic Oil Terminal's offering centers on its aim of building an oil export facility in the port in Kaliningrad, which is on the Baltic coast between Poland and Lithuania, the paper reported.

. (Bloomberg)

Wine Ban Requested

The country's chief epidemiologist, Gennady Onishchenko, has recommended that the Federal Customs Service ban the import of Georgian and Moldovan wines due to health and safety considerations, Interfax reported Monday.

In an appeal to the head of the customs service, Onishchenko said that in March tests by the Federal Consumer Protection Service, more than 60 percent of wines and wine products from Moldova and Georgia did not meet specified health and safety standards.

His statement said the service feared traces of pesticides might be found in the wines, and that approvals that had been issued by the Federal Consumer Protection Service to wine and wine products from those countries would no longer be valid. (MT)

Krishnas Suffer Setback

The Moscow branch of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness last week lost its case in the Moscow Arbitration Court, striking a blow to its plan to preserve the city's only Hindu temple.

The court supported a decision by the Moscow city government to tear up a decree giving a 1-hectare plot of land in the city's north to the Krishna movement in 2004, citing a technicality.

The land currently houses a prefabricated temple, which is the only place in the city for Hindus to worship.

Sergei Andreyev, the president of the Moscow branch, said the group was planning to appeal the decision. (MT)

Balchug Open for Business

Class-A office space of 27,000 square meters has become available to tenants at the Balchug Plaza in central Moscow, agency Cushman & Wakefield Stiles & Riabokobylko announced last week.

The agency said in a statement that the plaza, located at the intersection of Sadovnicheskaya and Balchug streets, combined a four-story "historically important edifice" with a nine-story, modern office building. (MT)

Car-Free Novy Arbat

A plan to turn the Novy Arbat into a pedestrian street could be completed within two years if funding is found, First Deputy Mayor Vladimir Resin told the TVS television last week.

Under the plan, a tunnel would be build below the current road, leaving the surface for pedestrians.

"We are looking for an investor, assessing the economic factors of the project, and as soon as that is done, we will move to undertake it," he said. (MT)

Moscow Malls for Meinl

VIENNA -- Austrian commercial real-estate developer Meinl European Land has acquired four malls in Moscow for 400 million euros ($482 million).

The deal includes two existing shopping malls in Moscow and two sites where construction of a total of 80,000 square meters of shopping space will begin in 2006 and 2007, Meinl said Thursday in a regulatory filing.

Meinl raised 921 million euros in a stock sale last month to fund its expansion in Eastern Europe. The company operates shopping malls in countries including Russia, Ukraine, Poland and Turkey. (Bloomberg)

Yekaterinburg Business Park

Billionaire Iskander Makhmudov plans to build a $1 billion business park in the center of Yekaterinburg, Vedomosti reported last week, citing project architect Mikhail Mandrigin.

The park, to be completed by 2012, will cover 8 hectares and include a five-star Hyatt hotel and office blocks, Vedomosti said.

Makhmudov is chairman of Yekaterinburg-based Urals Mining and Metals, Russia's biggest copper and zinc producer. (Bloomberg)

Gazprom, Evrofinans Plans

A unit of Gazprom has formed a venture with Evrofinans Mosnarbank to invest $1.5 billion in Russian real estate.

The investments will be mainly in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and will aid the development of the Russian economy, Gazprombank, the gas company's lending unit, and Evrofinans said in a e-mailed joint statement on Monday.

As part of the partnership, Gazprombank will acquire Evrofinans' stakes in companies that are part of its Gazprom-Media unit, the companies said in the statement, without providing financial details. (Bloomberg)