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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Troika May Sell Stake

Troika Dialog is close to selling a big stake to South Africa's Standard Bank via an asset swap that will allow it to get a cash injection, sources said Thursday.

The deal would mark the first major foreign investment in the Russian financial sector since the onset of the economic crisis.

Troika declined to comment, and Standard Bank's chief executive Jacko Maree said Thursday that the bank would keep seeking growth in emerging markets and in Russia but no deal was on the table right now.

Banking and regulatory sources said Thursday that Troika is looking to swap a chunk of its shares for cash and the Russian subsidiary of Standard Bank.(Reuters)

Putin Slams Oil Firms

Prime Minster Vladimir Putin criticized oil companies for raising prices on refined products from January, renewing criticism that they are breaking anti-monopoly law to keep prices high.

First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov said the prices had risen 18 percent in the first two months of the year.

The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service has been trying to force down prices for oil products since the summer, and Putin's new criticism was intended to pressure companies into cutting prices ahead of the spring sowing season. Restrictive export duties have made refining a profitable focus for Russian oil companies, which so far have not appeared to take the regular warnings very seriously.(MT)

Banks Swear Low Ag Rates

Banks have promised the government not to set interest rates for the agriculture sector higher than 18 percent, First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov told a meeting of the Presidium on Thursday.

Zubkov met with the management of six banks, including the country's two main agricultural creditors, Sberbank and Rosselkhozbank, to discuss lending terms for working capital and investment loans for the sector.

Banks will lend farmers 309 billion rubles ($8.6 billion) for working capital, with Rosselkhozbank providing 144 billion rubles, Sberbank -- 120 billion rubles, and VTB -- 13 billion rubles.(MT)

'08 Airline Passengers Up

Russian airlines transported 49.8 million passengers in 2008, or 10.4 percent more than in 2007, although the numbers dropped off in January, Gennady Kurzenkov, head of Federal Agency for Air Transportation, said Thursday.

Passenger volume transported by Russian airlines in January fell 16.7 percent year on year, while cargo volume fell by 34.7 percent, Kurzenkov said in the report, published on the agency's web site. Of the domestic traffic in 2008, 54 percent of passenger volumes was handled by Aeroflot, S7, Transaero, Rossia and UTair.

Cargo volume grew 6.4 percent in 2008 to 779,000 tons.(MT)

RZD to Get $55.7M

Russian Railways will get 2 billion rubles ($55.7 million) from the federal budget to transport domestically produced cars to the Far East, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said Thursday.

The idea of subsidizing transportation of Russian cars to the region was first voiced by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at a meeting with domestic automakers in December. Russians in the Far East almost exclusively drive cars imported from Japan.

The money will be managed by the federal railroad transport agency, Ivanov said. (MT)

Rosavia Flights Delayed

Rosavia will not begin flying this summer as previously planned, and the airlines expected to be merged into the new carrier will operate under their individual schedules, Kommersant reported Thursday.

The decision was made Wednesday at a meeting between Rosavia CEO Vitaly Vantsev and directors of the airlines that are supposed to become part of the holding. (MT)

10-Day Stoppage at KamAZ

KamAZ on Thursday announced a 10-day stoppage of its main conveyor, the third time this year the truck maker has halted production.

"The main assembly line will be stopped until the March 16. The rest of KamAZ's enterprises and services will be working," spokesman Vladimir Samoilov said, Interfax reported. "We're working on specific orders. We make about 1,700 to 1,800 vehicles per month. It makes no sense to produce more right now," he said.(MT)

Dismal Year for IPOs

There were a mere seven initial public offerings in the Commonwealth of Independent States last year, raising $1.7 billion, compared with 33 IPOs raising $34.3 billion in 2007, The PBN Company said in a report Thursday.

"Not only did 2008 fall well short of expectations in terms of CIS IPO activity, it also saw most of the value created over the last 12 years disappear," Peter Necarsulmer, the company's chairman and CEO, said in a statement.(MT)

Licenses for 2 Banks Pulled

The Central Bank said Thursday that it has revoked the licenses of two small banks, Municipal Commercial Bank and Yuzhny Trade bank, citing a lack of liquidity and an inability to meet creditors' demands and execute settlements.The banks had also violated banking regulations, the Central Bank said. (Reuters)

Aeroflot May Skip Dividend

Aeroflot chief executive said Thursday that the carrier was leaning toward not paying a dividend for 2008.

"A decision hasn't been made. But I think it's foolish to pay anyone dividends under the current circumstances," he said, Interfax reported. "The board of director's attitude on this matter is correct," he said.(MT)

Unilever Sees Sales Growth

Food and household-products maker Unilever sees significant sales growth in Russia in 2009 in spite of the financial crisis, the company's local head said Thursday.

"There may be a slight slowdown in the third and fourth quarters, but for the year as a whole we expect significant growth in all categories," Sanjiv Kakkar, chairman of Unilever Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, told reporters.

Kakkar also said Unilever planned to invest $140 million in the construction of a factory in the Russian city of Tula in 2009 to 2014.(Reuters)

Mirax to Restructure Debt

Mirax Group reached agreement with investors in its $180 million of bonds to restructure debt, the company said Thursday.

More than 90 percent of holders of the company's 9.45 percent four-year notes sold in March 2007 agreed to move the put option date and increase the coupon payment at a meeting Wednesday in London. (Bloomberg)

Mironov on Capital Control

Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov renewed on Thursday calls for a return to capital controls to protect the ruble, saying a capital escape tax of 20 percent was needed except for foreign debt repayments.

Last week, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he was against a return to controls after calls from Mironov and Russian Railways chief Vladimir Yakunin. (Reuters)

Rostelecom Drops Bid

Long-distance fixed-line provider Rostelecom has withdrawn an application with the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service to buy cellular operator Sky Link, its parent company said Thursday.

Konstantin Senichkin, a department head at the anti-monopoly service, said the service had received a letter from Rostelecom seeking to withdraw its application. Rostelecom declined to comment.(Reuters)