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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Debt Talks in June

PARIS -- Russia won agreement Thursday from a majority of Paris Club governments to begin talks on the repayment of its entire $22 billion debt to the 19-member group of creditor nations.

Negotiations will start in June, the Paris Club said in a statement, after "a majority of creditors" agreed in principle to Russia's proposal. Russia has been taking advantage of soaring revenues from oil exports to improve its balance sheet and pay off foreign debt.

The final decision on whether to accept Russia's repayment offer would be taken by the individual creditor governments, the statement said. It was not immediately clear which creditors had accepted Moscow's offer in outline, or whether Germany -- which holds about $9 billion in Russian Soviet-era debt -- was among them. (AP)

Reserves Hit $5.4Bln

Russia's foreign currency and gold reserves, the world's fourth largest, surged $5.4 billion in a week to a record amid higher prices for oil and natural gas, the country's biggest exports, Interfax said.

The reserves rose to $231.3 billion in the week ending May 5, after surging $8.6 billion the previous week, Interfax cited an unidentified Central Bank official as saying Thursday. The weekly gain was the 24th in a row. (Bloomberg)

E.On Talks at 'Dead End'

Gazprom's negotiations with E.On about the German company taking a stake in a Siberian natural gas field have reached a "dead end," Handelsblatt newspaper reported, citing unidentified people at Gazprom.

E.On does not want to meet Gazprom's demand that the German company give it, in return for the stake, a share in one of E.On's natural-gas distribution companies in Western Europe, the paper said.

E.On CEO Wulf Bernotat said Wednesday that both companies might agree to a deal within three months. BASF has signed an agreement with Gazprom about a stake in the field. (Bloomberg)

Surgut Adds Reserves

The country's fourth-largest oil firm, Surgutneftegas, has replaced its 2005 production by adding new reserves and said Thursday that it was buying new deposits that would allow it to replace future output.

Surgut added 82 million tons (601 million barrels) of confirmed oil reserves in 2005, when production amounted to 64 million tons, the company said in a statement.

Surgut has doubled its production over the last decade. It plans to increase output a further 5 percent to more than 67 million tons (1.35 million barrels per day) this year.

Surgut, which has been run by secretive general director Vladimir Bogdanov for the past two decades, last disclosed its total reserves in 2001, when they stood at 6.6 billion barrels. (Reuters)

Tatneft Q1 Net Jumps 65%

Tatneft, the country's sixth-biggest oil producer, said first-quarter profit surged 65 percent as prices for crude oil rose.

Net income in the period advanced to 12.24 billion rubles ($451.8 million) from 7.41 billion rubles a year earlier, the Almetyevsk, Tatarstan-based company said in a regulatory filing Thursday, without saying which accounting standards were used. No further information was provided. (Bloomberg)

2 Firms Join MSCI Index

Gazprom and Novolipetsk Steel will be added to Morgan Stanley Capital International's Emerging-Markets Index, the index's managers said in a statement.

Gazprom is the world's largest natural gas producer and Novolipetsk is Russia's fourth-biggest steelmaker. The changes will take effect at the close of trading May 31 and can increase a company's share price by attracting money from managers whose funds track the indexes. (Bloomberg)

Polyus Gold Plans Listing

Polyus Gold, the country's leading gold miner, will list on the dollar-denominated Russian Trading System and ruble-denominated MICEX index by the end of May, and begin trading American Depositary Receipts in June, spokesman Denis Davydov said.

Norilsk Nickel, the world's biggest nickel and palladium miner, spun off Polyus on Jan. 1; shares began trading over the counter in May.

Polyus plans to almost triple annual output to 3.2 million ounces by 2012 to become one of the world's top five producers. It is favored to win an auction of Sukhoi Log, Russia's biggest untapped gold deposit, after the government said only Russian companies would be allowed to bid. (Bloomberg)

2 More Plants in Iran?

TEHRAN, Iran -- Russia, which is building Iran's first nuclear power plant, is ready to build another two plants in the Islamic Republic, the Tehran Times reported, citing an Iranian official.

Iran has paid Russia as much as $1 billion to build a plant capable of generating about 1,000 megawatts of electricity in Bushehr province. Construction has faced numerous delays and building work may be completed by the end of this year.

Russia is interested in building two more light-water nuclear power plants generating 1,000 megawatts each, Mohammad Saeedi, Iran's deputy nuclear chief, told the newspaper. (Bloomberg)

Rambler Posts Profit

Rambler Media, a television broadcaster that controls the country's second-biggest Internet search engine, reported its first-ever profit in the second half of last year as sales from web advertising soared.

Net income was $111,000, or 1 cent per share, from a loss of $1.49 million, or 13 cents, in the year-earlier period, the company said in an e-mailed statement. Sales jumped 62 percent to $13.48 million.

Rambler competes with and, the No. 1 and No. 3 web portals in Russia, for the growing number of Russian-language Internet users and the advertising dollars chasing them. The company aims to make 2006 its first profitable year, CEO Irina Gofman said Thursday. (Bloomberg)

Google on VimpelCom

VimpelCom, Russia's second-largest mobile phone company, will offer Google's Internet browser to subscribers, adding wireless content as its home market nears saturation.

"We will use the Google search engine," Yulia Ostroukhova, a VimpelCom spokeswoman, said in a telephone interview Thursday. She said the cooperation would include other elements, declining to provide details before a press conference scheduled for May 16.

VimpelCom and competitors Mobile TeleSystems and MegaFon are adding services as the mobile phone market approaches saturation following eight years of economic growth in Russia. (Bloomberg)

KazMunaiGaz New Buy

LONDON -- Kaztransgaz, a gas-pumping unit of KazMunaiGaz, will pay $52 million to buy 100 percent of Almatygaz, the gas transport unit said Thursday in a statement. Kaztransgaz will invest at least 600 million tenge ($5 million) per year to maintain the city's distribution network.

KazMunaiGaz is expanding its retail sales as the nation plans to raise gas extraction. The company last year bought Tbilgaz, which supplies gas to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. (Bloomberg)

MGTS Profit Doubles

MGTS, the dominant fixed-line phone company in Moscow, said profit more than doubled last year as it offered new services such as broadband Internet and as the government raised tariffs.

Net income soared 114 percent to $161 million, from $75 million in 2004 under U.S. generally accepted accounting principles, MGTS chief executive officer Alexei Goltsov told reporters Thursday. Sales advanced 33 percent to $639.7 million.

Goltsov attributed 56 percent of sales growth to new services the company offered, including broadband Internet, and 44 percent to higher tariffs. (Bloomberg)

U.S. Banker Convicted

MIAMI -- A once-prominent banker was convicted of fraud and other charges stemming from a scheme to cover the bank's losses in a Russian loan debacle.

Eduardo Masferrer, the former chairman and CEO of Hamilton Bank, faces up to 10 years in prison, as well as large fines and restitution payments. U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore set sentencing for July 26.

The case revolved around transactions in 1998 and 1999 in which Hamilton Bank moved $20 million in loans to Russian entities off the books after they lost value during the 1998 financial crisis. The problem loans were swapped for other loans, making Hamilton appear more profitable than it was. (AP)