Business in Brief

Gazprom Bond Sales

MOSCOW (Bloomberg) -- Gazprom, the world's largest natural gas producer, sold 10 billion rubles ($350 million) of bonds to fund its projects, said Renaissance Capital, one of the sale's organizers, on Tuesday.

The bonds were priced to yield about 8 percent and a total of 326 bids were placed for a total volume of 15.9 billion rubles, Renaissance said in a statement. Promstroibank St. Petersburg and investment company Gorizont also organized the sale.

Gazprom provides more than a quarter of Western Europe's gas and holds about a fifth of the world's reserves of the fuel.

Embraer May Join Deal

BRASILIA, Brazil (Bloomberg) -- State arms exporter Rosoboronexport may ask Empresa Brasileira de Aeronautica, or Embraer, to join in its effort to win a $700 million fighter jet contract with the Brazilian government, Folha de S. Paulo reported Tuesday.

Rosoboronexport, which teamed up with Brazilian defense contractor Avibras SA for the bidding process, may invite Embraer to fulfill a technology transfer requirement in the contract, the newspaper reported, citing people familiar with the situation without naming them.

A group of 60 Russian entrepreneurs and government officials plan to visit Brazil before the bidding process ends in March, Folha said.

Russia may offer increased cooperation in agriculture, technology and aerospace businesses in exchange for the contract, Folha reported.

Brazilian military leaders have been seeking to buy as many as 24 aircraft by 2005 to replace its fleet of Mirage jets that were built in the 1970s.

Severstal Eyes Ukraine

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- The country's second-largest steel producer Severstal does not exclude the possibility of purchasing some assets in Ukraine, the company's chairman Alexei Mordashov told reporters Tuesday.

The company has not made its final decision yet, but the possibility has not been excluded, he noted.

Earlier, an official with Severstal said that the company is interested in the privatization of the Krivoi Rog-based Krivorozhstal smelter.

Krivorozhstal, with an annual output capacity of over 6 million tons of rolled stock, about 7 million tons of steel and 7.8 million tons of cast iron, controls about 20 percent of Ukraine's rolled stock and steel market.

New Kazakh Smelter

ASTANA, Kazakhstan (Prime-Tass) -- An aluminum smelter estimated at $800 million to $1 billion is to be constructed near the Kazakh city of Pavlodar, president of the state Kazakhstan Development Bank, Kambar Shalgimbayev, told journalists Monday.

The project is to be completed in eight to 10 years, he said. The project participants include an unspecified foreign bank and the KDB and Eurasia Group.

The plant's construction will be carried out in three stages. The first stage, which should be completed in two to three years, is to be launched this year.

The first stage costs $300 million, including $100 million of KDB's investments.

Upon its completion the plant is expected to produce up to 66,000 tons of aluminum annually, while when the second stage is completed it is to reach 120,000 tons. After completion of the third stage the plant will have the capacity to produce 240,000 tons.

Customs Revenue Up

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- The State Customs Committee collected $15.2 billion from imports in 2003, up 21.6 percent on the year, an official with the committee said Tuesday.

The committee collected $9.7 billion from exports last year, up 56.5 percent on the year, the official added.

The committee mostly attributes the increase of the collections to the improvement of its collection system.

New Chocolate Plant

MOSCOW (Bloomberg) -- Alfred Ritter, the German maker of Ritter Sport chocolate bars, plans to build its first foreign plant in Moscow, Vedomosti reported Tuesday.

The company, which is owned by the Ritter family, plans to spend 25 million euros ($31 million) on the plant, construction of which will start this year, the newspaper said.

Ritter Sport has a share of about 6 percent of Russia's chocolate-bar market, according to the company's estimates. Nestle has the largest market share at 36 percent, Vedomosti said, citing data from Business Analytica.

Nestle, the world's biggest foodmaker, said in June it will spend as much as $120 million to build a coffee plant in Russia. The company, which has 10 Russian factories, plans to start construction in spring.

Pipe Demand Stalls

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- Demand for large-diameter pipes is expected to remain almost unchanged on the year at about 1.4 million tons this year, Anatoly Sedykh, the president of the United Metallurgical Company, said Tuesday.

In 2003, the demand rose 49.5 percent on the year to 1.365 million tons, Sedykh said.

Vyksa Metallurgical Plant, or VMZ, a subsidiary of UMC based in the Nizhegorodsk region, produced 324,000 large-diameter pipes in 2003, Sedykh added.

Talking about plans for this year, Sedykh said that "up-to-date methods of development of oil and gas deposits stimulate the demand for high-pressure-resistant pipes, which VMZ already offers to its customers."

UMC is a major subsidiary of the financial-industrial group UMC that comprises about 20 companies, which apart from Vyksa includes the Almetyevsky pipe plant, Chusovskoi and Schyolkovsky Metallurgical plants, Gubakhinsky coke company, UMC pipe-producing center and others.

Sedmoi Turnover Up

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- The turnover of Moscow-based major supermarket chain Sedmoi Kontinent amounted to $445 million in 2003, up from $300.5 million in 2002, the company said Tuesday.

This year, Sedmoi Kontinent plans to open another 25 outlets and to start building its first hypermarkets.

The company also plans to start production of goods under its own brand name this year, it said.

Tulachermet Iron

MOSCOW (Prime-Tass) -- Tula-based Tulachermet, the country's largest cast iron manufacturer, produced 2.53 million tons of cast iron in 2003, the company said in a statement Tuesday without providing comparisons.

However, the company's daily cast iron output rose 705 tons on the year to an average of 8,034 tons in 2003.

The increase was mainly due to upgrading and reconstruction of the company's equipment, managing director Mikhail Manayenkov, said.

Tulachermet's pretax profit rose 329 million rubles ($11.5 million) on the year to 736 million rubles in 2003.

Tulachermet supplies 90 percent of its products to foreign markets, of which 65 percent goes to CIS countries.

Arkhangelsk Lumber

ARKHANGELSK, Far North (Prime-Tass) -- The lumber output of large and medium-sized timber processing plants based in the Arkhangelsk region fell 5 percent on the year to 1.9 million cubic meters in 2003, according to data provided by the statistics committee of the Arkhangelsk region on Tuesday.

Among major timber-processing companies, the output of the Solombalsk plant amounted to 248,400 cubic meters, and the Onezhsk plant's production reached 245,700 cubic meters.

In December 2003, the Arkhangelsk region's lumber output amounted to 126,300 cubic meters. No comparisons were available.

Moldovan Wine

CHISINAU, Moldova (Prime-Tass) -- Moldova's bottled wine exports rose 33 percent on the year in 2003 to 17.78 million dekaliters, an official with the state wine industry holding Moldova-Vin said Tuesday.

In monetary terms, the exports amounted to $163 million, up 31 percent on the year.

Moldova's wine exports to Russia amounted to 15.38 million dekaliters, accounting for 86 percent of the total exports.

In 2003, Moldova also exported 547,000 dekaliters of sparkling wine, up 36 percent on the year, while in monetary terms exports totaled $8 million, up 37 percent on the year.

Sparkling wine exports to Russia amounted to 490,000 dekaliters in 2003, accounting for 90 percent of the total exports.

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