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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Belarus Scraps Benefits

MINSK -- Belarussian lawmakers on Wednesday backed legislation stripping hundreds of thousands of disabled and retired people and students of social benefits and other state payments.

In an unusual move, the parliament's 110-seat lower house passed the bill in first and second readings, 101-1, sending it on to the upper chamber, which is also likely to pass it and send it to President Alexander Lukashenko for his signature. (AP)

Gazprom Buys Refinery

Gazprom bought a controlling stake in Salavatnefteorgsintez, an oil refinery in the republic of Bashkortostan for 19 billion rubles ($734 million), Interfax reported Wednesday, citing the republic's prime minister.

Gazprom paid for part of the stake with its own shares, the agency reported, citing Rafael Baidavletov, the prime minister of Bashkortostan. Baidavletov declined to say how many shares, Interfax said. Gazprom bought the stake in April, Interfax said. (Bloomberg)

Handset Sales Rise

Russians spent $1.4 billion on handsets in the first quarter of this year, opting for more expensive models, researcher J'son & Partners said in a statement Wednesday.

Russians spent 9 percent more on mobile phones in the first three months of this year than a year earlier, with the average price increasing by 13 percent to $204, J'son & Partners said. (Bloomberg)

Deripaska Denies Sale

Billionaire Oleg Deripaska is not planning to sell his stake in insurer Ingosstrakh, his holding company said Wednesday, denying media reports.

Neither Deripaska personally nor his investment company Basic Element has "any plans to exit from Ingosstrakh," the company said. (Bloomberg)

A Just Russia Slams Budget

A Just Russia is unlikely to support the federal budget for 2008-2010 as it does not raise salaries, social benefits and pensions enough, party leader Alexander Babakov said Tuesday.

The proposed budget does not provide adequate poverty reduction measures and the salary increases for state employees do not reflect the actual state of the economy, Babakov said. (MT)

Nestle Expects Sales Jump

Nestle expects its Russian sales to rise 14 percent this year to $1.6 billion, the company said in materials given before a news conference in Moscow on Wednesday.

That compares with sales of $1.4 billion last year, the company said. First-quarter sales in Russia rose 16 percent, Nestle added. (Bloomberg)

Grid Company Upgrades

An interregional grid company, which supplies power to plants run by Nestle and Volkswagen, spent 1.7 billion rubles ($65 million) in the first quarter upgrading transmission lines and connecting new customers.

Interregional Grid Company for Central Russia and Northern Caucasus used its own funds as well as loans to finance the work, the company said Wednesday in a statement. It had a net income of 363 million rubles in the first quarter. (Bloomberg)

Sitronics to Redeem Bonds

Sitronics, controlled by billionaire Vladimir Yevtushenkov's Sistema holding company, will redeem eurobonds two years ahead of time, the company said Wednesday

Sitronics' subsidiary Sitronics Finance will on June 27 repay $200 million of eurobonds that were due in 2009, the company said.

Sitronics issued the notes with a coupon rate of 7.9 percent in March 2006. (Bloomberg)

Rosneft Dividend Plans

Rosneft recommended paying shareholders about $540 million in dividends for 2006, the company said in a statement Wednesday

The firm's board decided Tuesday to recommend paying 1.33 rubles (5 cents) per share, or more than 15 percent of net income under U.S. accounting standards, Rosneft said. (Bloomberg)

VTB Will Issue Shares

VTB bank plans a new share issue to complete a merger with Promstroibank before the end of 2007, a source familiar with the deal said Wednesday.

"There will be an additional share issue. There is a plan to complete the merger before the end of this year," the source said.

In 2005, VTB bought a 75 percent stake in St. Petersburg-based Promstroibank. (Reuters)

Norilsk Sells Retailer Stake

Norilsk Nickel, which plans to spin off its power assets next year, sold a 25.26 percent stake in a Krasnoyarsk electricity retailer operating in the country's Far East, the company said Wednesday.

The company did not disclose the value of the deal in the statement. Victor Borodin, spokesman for Norilsk, declined to comment. (Bloomberg)