Russian News: March 21th, 2008!

RBC, 20.03.2008, Moscow 19:56:38.Following the Russian Federal Security Service’s accusations that a TNK-BP employee was involved in industrial espionage, the Russian-British oil company issued a statement declaring that it was opposed to the use of unfair competitive practices. Commenting on searches carried out at the company’s offices, spokesperson Alexander Shadrin said that TNK-BP never supported and does not codone any illegal activities, whose purpose is to bring harm to the Russian Federation. Furthermore, he stressed that the company continues to provide assistance to the law-enforcement bodies within the procedure established by law. According to Shadrin, TNK-BP, meanwhile, continues to conduct its business activities as usual.

RBC, 20.03.2008, Moscow 19:15:36.The strategy and reorganization committee of RAO UES’s Board of Directors is planning to review dividend recommendations during a meeting scheduled for March 26, the agenda of the meeting states. In addition, the committee intends to discuss the details of the sale of a government stake in the power generation company TGK-13, which is issuing additional shares at a price range of between RUB 0.19 and RUB 0.23 per share.

RBC, 20.03.2008, Moscow 18:56:16.The investigation committee of the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office has opened the fourth criminal case against Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky, the committee’s public relations department reported today. The organization is currently drafting a request for legal assistance to be forwarded to concerned agencies in the UK. Berezovsky is charged with making false accusations regarding the intentions of Russia’s secret service to assassinate him, as well as with deliberate falsification of evidence.

RBC, 20.03.2008, Moscow 18:27:32.Russia’s Federal Security Service has charged a TNK-BP employee Ilya Zaslavsky and his brother, head of the British Council in Russia, Alexander Zaslavsky, with industrial espionage in favor of foreign companies, the agency’s public relations center reported today. Each of the suspects has dual citizenship in the US and Russia. According to the organization’s statement, the brothers engaged in illegal gathering of confidential commercial information to provide a number of foreign oil and gas companies with competitive advantages over their Russian rivals. A search was conducted in offices of TNK-BP and BP Trading Ltd., during which evidence confirming espionage was discovered. Both suspects were detained on March 12.

RBC, 20.03.2008, Moscow 17:23:47.Russian banks could lose up to a fourth of their assets due to financial instability, deputy head of the Federation Council’s committee on financial markets and monetary circulation Gleb Fetisov told a banking conference today. According to Fetisov, five top banks with state participation have accumulated nearly 50 percent of total banking assets in Russia. He believes that regional banks have fallen behind without any hope to catch up with them. Most banks are covering their short-term liabilities with long-term loans, which could result in a liquidity squeeze. Low capitalization of the banking system is yet another problem, Fetisov said, as most regional banks have never had any intention of going public. One of the ways to solve the issues is funding by large financial organizations, including financial institutions.

RBC, 20.03.2008, Moscow 17:02:11.According to preliminary unaudited data, Lebedyansky’s net profit under IFRS went down 10 percent to $79.2m in 2007, Russia’s natural juice producer said in a report today. Meanwhile, revenue surged 33 percent to $944.8m, including sales of Lebedyansky’s subsidiary Troya-Ultra. Sales excluding those of Troya-Ultra grew 27 percent to $892.5m. The company’s management attributes the rise in sales to regional expansion, the development of direct sales and the pricing and marketing policies. EBITDA increased 12 percent to $155.6m, while EBITDA margin declined from 19.6 to 16.5 percent in 2007.

RBC, 20.03.2008, Moscow 16:55:05.Russian President Vladimir Putin has formed a list of instructions following the meeting of the presidential council for the implementation of high-priority national projects, held on February 28, the Russian leader’s press office reported today. For instance, Putin urged the council to ensure the realization of the government’s demographic policy and the development of priority national projects in the areas of healthcare, education, affordable housing, and agriculture.

RBC, 20.03.2008, Moscow 16:20:11.The Russian stock market is not expected to stop its downward correction until the end of the week, experts told RBC TV today. Once again, the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate cut had only a short-term effect on the market. Meanwhile, analysts believe that Russian stocks’ decline is likely to slow in the afternoon, with shares sliding 0.5 percent before the close. Second-tier securities of the construction and consumer sectors look more stable than the rest, experts say.

RBC, 20.03.2008, Moscow 15:52:03.According to various criteria, between 18 and 42 percent of Russians consider themselves to be middle class, a poll conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM) showed. The respondents of the poll considered themselves middle class on the basis of the following criteria: good living conditions (42 percent), ability to provide high-quality education to children (39 percent), satisfaction with life prospects (35 percent), comfortable life after retirement (26 percent), ability to travel abroad (21 percent), and owning two or more cars per family (18 percent). The poll also showed that people under 35 considered themselves middle class a lot more often that people aged 35-39 and 60 or over. The poll was conducted among 1,600 respondents in 153 locations in 46 Russian regions and republics on February 16-17, with the margin of error of no more than 3.4 percent.

RBC, 20.03.2008, Moscow 13:57:02.Russia and Egypt have a great cooperation potential in the nuclear and oil and gas industries, Russia’s Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko said during his talks with Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo. According to the press office of the Industry and Energy Ministry, Khristenko has arrived in Egypt to take part in the session of an intergovernmental commission on trade, economic, research and technology cooperation between the two countries. During the meeting, the minister defined the ties with Egypt as strategic. As a result of the meeting, the two sides arrived at a framework agreement on peaceful nuclear cooperation, including in such areas as personnel training, infrastructure facilities and research. The agreement is to be signed next week during the visit of Egypt’s President to Russia.

RBC, 20.03.2008, Moscow 11:37:37.Russia’s gold and currency reserves stood at $502.1bn as of March 14, 2008, up $7.6bn, or 1.5 percent from the previous showing. This has been the highest increase in reserves since the beginning of the year. The reserves climbed a total of $13.5bn over the four previous weeks, and therefore, the overall increase amounted to $21.1bn, or 4.4 percent, in five weeks. The rapid rise can be attributed to the euro’s considerable increase against the dollar on international exchanges, as well as to the Central Bank’s active foreign currency acquisitions on the domestic market. As a result, Russia has been able to somewhat close up the gas separating it from the world leaders in reserves, China and Japan. China’s reserves currently exceed $1.5 trillion, having climbed more than 43 percent in 2007 alone, due to the country’s huge trade surplus. Japan currently boasts over $1 trillion in reserves.

RBC, 20.03.2008, Moscow 09:29:28.Russia’s Central Election Commission has filed lawsuits in a number of countries over allegations of irregularities during Russia’s recent presidential election made by some foreign mass media. The commission’s Chairman Vladimir Churov made this announcement during a live interview to one of the Russian radio stations. In addition, the commission’s officials are now working on important publications on the issue.

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