Russian News: February 5th, 2008!

RBC, LUKoil Group’s daily hydrocarbon production increased 1.7 percent to 2.181m barrels of oil equivalent in 2007 compared to a year earlier, the Russian oil company’s press office reported. Oil output stood at 1.959m barrels per day, a 1.6 percent rise from 2006, with total oil production amounting to 96.464m tonnes in 2007, 1.5 percent above the previous year. LUKoil Group’s saleable natural gas production increased 2.5 percent to 13.955bn cubic meters in 2007. The company attributes the slowdown in its production growth to the sale of a 50-percent stake in Caspian Investments (formerly, Nelson Resources), a company operating in hydrocarbon exploration and production in Kazakhstan, in late April 2007. Moreover, a considerable decline in gas supplies to Gazprom due to an unusually warm winter in 2006-2007 is said to have weighed on the figures as well.

RBC, Commenting on media reports of an alleged merger between Norilsk Nickel and United Company RUSAL, the Russian nickel producer’s General Director Denis Morozov argued today that Norilsk Nickel’s management had not received any offers from UC RUSAL for the two companies to merge. Morozov was unable to estimate the synergetic effect of such a merger, noting that he needed to know UC RUSAL’s value to do so. Meanwhile, Morozov announced that UC RUSAL was projected to close the deal on the purchase of a blocking stake in Norilsk Nickel by the end of the month…..(More News)

RBC, The Russian stock market’s trend will be defined by the US Federal Reserve’s commentaries expected to be released this week, experts told RBC TV, adding that the news background remained intense, with emotions running high on the market. If the Russian market is to regain footing and continue to climb steadily, Norilsk Nickel is said to become one of the highest gainers, since the security is currently at appealing levels. Although the Russian market may appear to be better than other countries’ exchanges, analysts doubt that it can withstand the overall global trend, which is currently looking down. As of 3 p.m., the MICEX index was up 2.39 percent at 1,679.72 points, and the RTS index up 2.11 percent at 2,010.59 points.

RBC, The Moscow City Court has upheld the ruling of the lower Savyolovsky Court of Moscow to sentence Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky in his absence to six years in prison for the embezzlement of the Russian air carrier Aeroflot’s funds. As a result, the court dismissed the defendant’s appeal to recall the Savyolovsky Court’s sentence and stop criminal proceedings against Berezovsky. The state-appointed lawyer for Boris Berezovsky noted that he would not appeal the Moscow Court’s ruling, as he was no longer authorized to do so, adding that he found the decision and the charges to be absurd.

RBC, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin believes that the dollar to ruble rate will be sinking in the coming half a year or even a year, he told Channel One. In a long term perspective of more than a year, the dollar is equally likely to fall and to rise, the Minister said. Kudrin stressed that the dollar’s fall has allowed for a recovery of the US economy in recent years, as the US administration has been consciously letting the dollar weaken to support domestic producers. The US budget deficit has been shrinking recently, Kudrin noted.

RBC, The Central Bank of Russia is raising its discount rate from 10 to 10.25 percent to stem inflation and hold down the dynamics of the money supply. In addition, the Bank of Russia is changing the interest rates on operations it conducts and legal reserve requirements. This is the first time that the Bank of Russia has raised the discount rate since June 1998. The previous cut was made on June 19, 2007, when the rate was reduced from 10.5 to 10 percent.

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