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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

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Europe Drops Demand to Review South Stream Agreements

The South Stream gas pipeline inched closer to reality as the European Commission dropped an earlier demand to review intergovernmental agreements between Russia and several states, European Commissioner for Energy Gunther Oettinger and an Energy Ministry spokesman said, Vedomosti reported Monday.

The European Commission announced in December that agreements between Russia and the governments of Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia on the South Stream project did not comply with European legislation and must be revised. That legislation guarantees alternative suppliers access to pipeline infrastructure and bans the main supplier from monopolizing the distribution network as well as setting tariffs.

On Friday, Energy Minister Alexander Novak and Oettinger agreed to set up a working group to discuss legal and technological issues around the project. Rather than reviewing intergovernmental agreements, it will focus on adapting the project to the EU's regulations, Deputy Energy Minister Anatoly Yanovsky said. (MT)

Putin Orders Reduced Borrowing Costs for 'Productive' Companies

President Vladimir Putin has instructed the Central Bank to reduce borrowing costs for "productive" companies, the Kremlin said on its website Monday.

The directive may increase the pressure on Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina to soften the bank's tough anti-inflationary policy. The bank has resisted cuts in its key policy rate for more than a year despite an abrupt economic slowdown.

However, the phrasing of Putin's order, one of several issued to governmental bodies for implementation this year, suggests that he wants the Central Bank to come up with a targeted scheme.

The order recommends the bank to work on "stimulating a lowering of the level of interest rates on ruble loans provided to organizations active in the productive sphere."

It did not elaborate further, except to say that Nabiullina is responsible for presenting proposals by Sept. 1. (Reuters)

Uralkali Agrees Potash Supply Deal With China

Uralkali has agreed to sell 700,000 tons of potash to Chinese importers at a price of $305 per ton on a cost and freight, or CFR, basis in the first half of 2014, a source familiar with discussions said.

Uralkali, the world's largest potash producer, confirmed the price and the volume of the deal in a statement later on Monday.

The company supplied potash, the crop nutrient, at a price of $400 a ton on a CFR basis to China in the previous contract which ran until mid-2013. (Reuters)

EBRD and RDIF Grant $108M Loan to Laundry Firm Cottonway

The European bank for Reconstruction and Development together with the Russian Direct Investment Fund have granted a 3.6 billion ruble ($108 million) convertible loan to laundry service firm Cottonway, which handles 40 percent of of the laundry needs of giant railway monopoly Russian Railways.

The EBRD and the RDIF are providing equal sums on the same terms, the EBRD said in a press release Monday.

The Russian textile rental market, which includes laundry services and textile delivery, was worth an estimated $1.2 billion in 2013, 90 percent of which was accounted for by laundry services. Using the borrowed funds, the EBRD hopes that Cottonway will be able to buy equipment allowing for 50 percent more efficient use of water. (MT)

Luxury Hotels Outperform Flat Market With 4% Rates Rise

Moscow's hotel market had a static 2013. Occupancy rates were flat, and only in the luxury segment the daily rate of a rooms became more expensive, rising 4 percent to exceed 13,100 rubles ($392), according to a report by real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle.

2014 will follow a similar pattern, the company said: "Occupancies seem to be at a peak, with little reason to forecast a rise in 2014," David Jenkins, head of Jones Lang LaSalle's Hotels & Hospitality Group, said.

The report looked at the top end of the hotels market, from midscale to luxury. In every segment, daily rates are still about 20 percent below the peaks they reached in 2008, before the economic crisis swept through the country in 2009. Supply, meanwhile, has boomed, growing by 60 percent since 2008. The fastest growth has been in the upper midscale segment, where the number of rooms has increased by 80 percent in the last five years. (MT)

Central Bank Again Shifts Ruble Corridor By 5 Kopecks

The Central Bank has shifted its target exchange-rate corridor for the ruble by five kopecks, following market interventions to curb the pace of the currency's decline.

The new corridor extends from 33.30 to 40.30 rubles to the dollar-euro currency basket as of Jan. 17, compared to 33.25 to 40.25 previously.

Under its managed float, the Central Bank increases its interventions as the ruble approaches the boundary of the corridor. Once an intervention allotment of $350 million is exhausted it automatically shifts the corridor. (Reuters)