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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Gutseriyev Seeks Asylum

Former Russneft chief Mikhail Gutseriyev, who is wanted in Russia on charges of illegal business practices and tax evasion, has sought political asylum in Britain, the Mail on Sunday newspaper reported, citing British government sources.

The asylum application was filed two weeks ago and is being processed in a rush, the newspaper reported.

Gutseriyev stepped down as head of Russneft on July 31 after claiming he was being targeted by tax and law enforcement authorities.

Russian newspaper Tvoi Den also reported last week that Gutseriyev had applied to the British Home Office for political asylum. (MT)

Putin Upbeat on WTO

LISBON -- President Vladimir Putin said Friday that he expected that Russia's decade-long negotiations to join the World Trade Organization would end with a "positive result."

"As a whole, the dialogue is going positively," Putin said at a news conference at the conclusion of a summit between the leaders of the European Union and Russia in Portugal. "We expect that it will end with a positive result." (Bloomberg)

Wood Duty May Be Lifted

HELSINKI -- Russia and the European Union are close to an agreement on Russian wood export duties, Finnish national broadcaster Yle said on its web site Friday.

Yle said Russia was ready to drop the duties once it was accepted as a member in the World Trade Organization, Yle said, but cited no sources. (Reuters)

Siberian Flight Pact Near

MAFRA, Portugal -- President Vladimir Putin told the European Union that Moscow would sign a long-delayed agreement to phase out fees charged to airlines flying over Siberia, EU trade chief Peter Mandelson said Friday.

"President Putin said that our agreement would be signed," Mandelson said. Putin did not say when Russia would sign the pact, but transport authorities from both sides settled technical problems last week that had held up the signature, Mandelson said. (Reuters)

Oil Export Tax Hike

The government will raise its tax on crude oil exports by 9.5 percent to a record high on Dec. 1 after world fuel prices rose in September and October, a Finance Ministry official said Friday.

The tax will probably increase to about $272 to $274 per ton because of high world oil prices, said Alexander Sakovich, deputy head of the Finance Ministry's customs department. The current duty is $250.30 per ton. (Bloomberg)

Shtokman Venture Fee Set

Total and StatoilHydro will each pay $800 million to take part in Gazprom's Shtokman natural gas project, Kommersant reported Friday, citing an unidentified official from the Russian energy company.

For that money, Gazprom's two foreign partners may also get the right to book Shtokman reserves in proportion to their stakes, the newspaper said. (Bloomberg)

Transneft Profit Advances

Oil-pipeline operator Transneft said Friday that profit advanced 9.7 percent in the second quarter on higher crude shipments.

Net income climbed to 18.2 billion rubles ($730 million) from 16.6 billion rubles in the same period last year, state-run Transneft said on its web site. Revenue rose 9.3 percent to 55.2 billion rubles. (Bloomberg)

Uralkali Suspends Contracts

Uralkali, the country's second-largest potash maker, said Friday that it would suspend new sales of the fertilizer after a similar decision by the world's biggest producer and expectations that a shortage will push up prices.

Uralkali's shares rose to a record in London and Moscow trading after saying Belarussian Potash, which handles its exports, halted new contracts. Potash prices may increase because of the supply shortage, Uralkali said in a statement. (Bloomberg)

S&N May Bid for Venture

LONDON -- Scottish & Newcastle plans to fund a solo bid for Carlsberg's stake in the companies' Russian joint venture through a share sale to existing investors, the Sunday Telegraph reported, citing no one.

The proposal is one option being studied by Scottish & Newcastle to fend off an unsolicited takeover bid from rivals Carlsberg and Heineken, the newspaper said. (Bloomberg)

Societe Unit Raises $390M

LONDON -- Banque Societe Generale Vostok, the Russian subsidiary of France's second-biggest bank, raised $390 million in loans to expand its business in the world's 10th-largest economy.

The three-year loan, arranged by Societe Generale in Paris and Citigroup, was increased from an initial $250 million because of demand from the investors, the banks said in a statement Friday. (Bloomberg)

Troika to Buy Siberian Bank

VTB Group, the country's second-largest lender, agreed to sell the majority stake in its Siberian unit to Troika Dialog investment bank, Troika Dialog said Thursday.

Troika Dialog bought into Bank Broker, whose headquarters is located in Chita, to "serve its growing client base," it said. (Bloomberg)

Ruukki Plans Investments

Ruukki Group plans to invest 40 billion rubles ($1.6 billion) in Russia's timber industry, executive director Matti Vikkula said, Vedomosti reported Friday.

Ruukki wants to build a sawmill in the northwestern Kostroma region next year and a cellulose plant by 2010, the newspaper reported.

Ruukki is trying to get "priority investor" status, which under Russia's new Forestry Code allows companies to lease forests for up to 49 years without having to participate in auctions, Vedomosti said. (Bloomberg)

Synergy Valued at $980M

Spirits producer Synergy has been valued by the organizers of its initial public offering at between $810 million and $980 million, a source close to the deal said Friday.

Synergy will float 23.4 percent of its stock when it lists, or 19 percent of its enlarged capital, the source also said.

The company aims to raise $150 million from the IPO and will list in Russia and abroad, but not the United States, banking sources earlier said. (Reuters)

LUKoil Refinery Restored

LUKoil will fully upgrade its Odessa refinery by April to raise output of high quality oil products, the company said Friday.

LUKoil said it had finished reconstruction of vacuum distillation unit and would in the first quarter of next year complete modernization of a visbreaking unit, which will allow it to cut fuel oil output and raise production of vacuum gas oil. (Reuters)

Sulzer Mulls Russian Power

ZURICH -- Sulzer sees opportunities in the power generation business in Russia, using the contacts of its shareholder Viktor Vekselberg, chief executive Ton Buechner said, Swiss newspaper Finanz & Wirtschaft reported Friday.

"The Russian power market has to grow," Buechner said, the Zurich-based newspaper reported. Vekselberg's investment company, Renova Holding, "has good contacts in Russia," he said, according to the report. (Bloomberg)