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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

JT Ups Its Stake in Russia

Japan Tobacco increased its share of the Russian cigarettes market to 34 percent after completing a $15 billion takeover of Britain.-based Gallaher Group on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Japanese firm said, Itar-Tass reported.

Gallaher manufactures and sells cigarettes in Russia under the Silk Cut, Benson & Hedges, Sovereign, LD, CITY, Troika, Arbat, Moscow, Prima and Ducat brand names.

Japan Tobacco has a cigarette factory in St. Petersburg. (MT)

Gasoline Tax Suspended

Russia will suspend taxes on gasoline imports in May, possibly creating competition for domestic producers of high-quality fuel, Kommersant said Wednesday.

Imports may rise to 10 percent of high-quality gasoline sales from 2 percent now, the newspaper said, citing Mikhail Armyakov, an analyst at RIM investment bank. The tax rate will be cut to zero from 5 percent, without harming the budget or Russian producers of high-quality gasoline, such as LUKoil and Gazprom Neft, the newspaper said, citing an unidentified Economic Development and Trade Ministry official. (Bloomberg)

Fund Split Approved

The Federation Council voted Wednesday in favor of amendments to the country's Budget Code allowing it to split the $108 billion stabilization fund into a reserve fund and a fund for future generations next year, Russian media reported.

The amended code will go into force after it is signed by President Vladimir Putin, who had already backed the reform in his annual budget address earlier this year. The reform also won support from the State Duma last week. (Reuters)

Economy to Grow at 6%

The economy will grow by at least 6 percent annually through 2010, though engineering and high technology industries will drive the expansion rather than oil, Vedomosti reported Wednesday, citing an Economic Development and Trade Ministry report.

Investment is forecast to rise twice as fast as economic growth and will be directed into manufacturing instead of oil and mining, the newspaper cited the report as saying. (Bloomberg)

Barroso on Polish Meat Ban

BRUSSELS -- European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Wednesday Brussels had given Russia enough information on its concerns about Polish sanitary standards for Moscow to lift a meat import ban.

"We hope, we indeed expect, that the clarifications that have been provided by the European Commission experts … are clear for the Russian authorities to consider to lift their ban on meat and other exports from Poland to Russia," Barroso said. (Reuters)

Mamut to Sell Insurer Stake

Financier Alexander Mamut plans to sell his 40 percent stake in insurer Ingosstrakh to Czech finance group PPF rather than to billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who controls the remaining shares, Vedomosti said Wednesday.

Mamut valued the stake at $100 million more than Deripaska was willing to pay, the newspaper said, citing an unidentified person close to Ingosstrakh. PPF, which controls Home Credit bank and insurer Ceska Pojistovna, paid $100 million for a yearlong option to buy the stake for $600 million, Vedomosti said, citing an unidentified co-owner of one of the insurers. (Bloomberg)

Aeroflot Eyes Asian Growth

MILAN -- Aeroflot, one of three bidders for a stake in Alitalia, wants to expand in Asia, CEO Valery Okulov told daily Corriere della Sera in comments published Wednesday.

The eventual purchase of the Italian airline "would integrate perfectly with our collaboration with international partners," the Italian newspaper quoted him as saying. The acquisition also would boost Aeroflot's sales in southern Europe, North Africa and South America, Okulov told the newspaper. (Bloomberg)

Imperial Energy Lays Pipes

Imperial Energy, which produces oil and natural gas in Russia and Kazakhstan, finished laying two pipelines in western Siberia as it seeks to meet an output target of 6,000 barrels per day by the end of the summer, the Britian-registered company said in a statement Thursday.

Imperial plans to connect the links to Russia's main pipeline system and start pumping oil from its Snezhnoye and Maiskoye fields by the end of June, the company said. (Bloomberg)

Russia Waits on Iraqi Debt

SAN FRANCISCO -- Russia has has not agreed to forgive debt to Iraq accumulated under former President Saddam Hussein, The Washington Post reported Tuesday, citing Iraqi Foreign Minister Bayan Jabr.

Russia is waiting for talks to begin on oil and gas concessions that Russian companies held with Hussein, the report said.

Saudi Arabia has agreed to cancel 80 percent of Iraq's more than $15 billion in debt to the country, the newspaper said, citing Iraqi and Saudi officials. (Bloomberg)

Gazprom Cool on Nabucco

VIENNA -- Gazprom says OMV's Nabucco gas pipeline project is an "idea" and "not a project yet," the Austrian Press Agency reported Wednesday, citing a Gazprom spokesman.

Nabucco, which will carry natural gas from the Caspian to Western Europe, may compete with Gazprom's Blue Stream pipeline, which runs from Russia to Turkey and might be extended westward following a route similar to Nabucco's. Gazprom has "no opinion" on the $6.3 billion Nabucco project, the agency reported, citing Gazprom's Sergei Kupriyanov, a spokesman for the company. (Bloomberg)

Renova to Unite Gold Assets

Billionaire Viktor Vekselberg's Renova Group is consolidating its gold assets in the country's Far East to prepare them for sale, Vedomosti said Wednesday, citing unidentified people familiar with the plan.

The assets will be held by the Zoloto Kamchatki holding, which will make an initial public offering or sell a stake to a strategic investor, the newspaper said. Renova has already held talks with the world's "major" gold miners, including with Canada's Barrick Gold and Kinross Gold, Vedomosti said. (Bloomberg)

Cattle Smuggling Thwarted

An attempt to smuggle live cattle into the country across the Belarussian border has been thwarted by the Federal Service for Veterinarian and Vegetation Sanitary Supervision, the Prime-Tass news agency reported Wednesday.

"A KamAZ truck was halted in the Bryansk region carrying 49 [heads of] cattle," a service spokesman said, the agency reported. "The animals were being brought into the country without the required permits and veterinary certificates." (MT)