31 Jul 2009 10:16

Moscow press review for July 31, 2009

MOSCOW. July 31 (Interfax) - The following is a digest of Moscow newspapers published on July 31. Interfax does not accept liability for information in these stories.


For three years Gazprom has been finding arguing successfully why the government should not increase a tax load on the company. Once again the finance ministry made another attempt to raise the gas mining tax from 2010 at least by 10% and the export duty from 30% to 35%. In that case the budget will get the additional 60 billion rubles, the ministry calculated. But Gazprom won again: it was decided to reject both proposals, deputy prime minister and finance minister Alexei Kudrin said on Thursday. Gazprom promised that the treasury will get the same money from other sources, the minister said: the group provided a list of proposals on new supply contracts to other countries at prices which would cover these 60 billion rubles." ("Gazprom escapes again")

Russia and Tajikistan have reached a compromise on how to operate the Sangtuda hydropower plant and discussed several other energy projects. The key disputable issue was the price at which Tajikistan will buy energy from the HPP, a Tajik official said. Moscow offered 3 cents per 1 kilowatt-hour, but Dushanbe rejected because retail prices for individual customers are much lower (1.2 cents). Still, the compromise has been reached, the official said: the price will be less than what Russia asked for, but only for a limited period (most likely, 15 years) and will be raised afterwards. ("The Russian language is no obstacle")

The Federal Customs Service (FCS) has suggested to extend the list of commodities banned for export under the tolling scheme. A draft governmental resolution was posted on the FCS website. The Service suggests banning the internal tolling scheme for 18 commodities: the export of raw materials for processing abroad for further return to Russia. The list includes, in particular, ore, oil and petroleum products, timber, diamonds, ferrous metals, copper, nickel, and aluminum. Currently, the banning mechanism applies only to precious and semi-precious metals. ("Processing at home")

The government has approved the main characteristics of the 2010-2012 federal budget. The authorities are not ready to stimulate economy, their first priority is to meet social obligations. The finance ministry hopes the budget revenue will grow from 6.6 trillion rubles in 2010 to 8.1 trillion rubles in 2012. The budget deficit should reduce over the next three years: 7.5%, 4.3% and 3%. The three-year growth of oil and gas income by 790.6 billion rubles will be mainly secured from additional sources. ("Treasury for people," also "Kommersant" - page 2, "The government fit in the budget")

Instead of Bombardier it was Siemens who won a contract for the supply of high-speed trains for Russian Railways . The deal is estimated at over 400 million euro. On Thursday RZD and Siemens signed a protocol of intent to supply and maintain commuter trains, which will operate during the Sochi Olympics from Adler to Krasnaya Polyana. So far 38 rolling stocks have been stipulated. RZD received 41.5 billion rubles from the government for these purposes, said company CEO Vladimir Yakunin. But the monopoly could order additional trains for the North Caucasus railway with its own money, he said. ("RZD changes the supplier," also in Kommersant, page 9, "Machine makers collided on the Russian railways")


The second quarter was bad for Surgutneft , which saw its profit drop eight times compared to January-March to just 8.5 billion rubles. The main reason was the strengthening of ruble, which partially devalued the company's multi-billion savings. Surgutneft's production performance remained unaffected by this situation, but the company is calculating its dividends based on the posted profit. (page 9, "Surgutneft profits sharply fell")

The Federal Tariff Service decreased Russia's energy balance forecast for 2010 by 7.1% against its 2009 forecast to 990.9 billion kilowatt-hours. This is the 2006 level. However, given the current slump in demand, energy consumption is still expected to increase by 4.7-5.9% in 2010. Anyway, the forecast might change in any direction already in October. (page 9, "FTS sent its energy balance to 2006")

Next Tuesday, VTB will start accepting applications from its shareholders for a new share issue. 10% of the issue will be offered abroad. The bank will not determine the offer price before the end of August. Experts are confident it will be higher than on the market, with the Russian government buying the majority of the issue, which is why VTB will sacrifice investors' demand in order to level out the discontent of common shareholders. (page 7, "VTB is doing a favor to minorities")

The banks' capital reduction in June registered in the previous month for the first time since August 2004, has continued, the Bank of Russia said. The negative trend accelerated: in June banks' equity capitals reduced by 0.8%, whereas in May the capital reduction was 0.5%. Despite the slower growth rates of bad debts, banks have little hope that the situation will improve and are spending most of their income to create reserves on troubled loan, thus setting aside for a rainy day. (page 8, "Banks waved their profits")

It emerged how much mobile operator MTS will pay for a 51% stake in multi-service operator Komstar (both companies are controlled by AFK Sistem) . MTS will pay to Sistema for the control stake in Komstar $1.275 billion, each share worth $5.98 at a fixed rate of 31.97 rubles for $1. Such is the price recommended by Bank of America Securities - Merrill Lynch, and it is 19.6% higher than Komstar's Thursday value at the London Stock Exchange. (page 7, "Sistema rewarded Komstar").