MOSCOW. Feb 15 (Interfax) - The following is a digest of Moscow newspapers published on February 15. Interfax does not accept liability for information in these stories.
POLITICS & ECONOMICS
Russia's Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday that the new regulations on protest rallies that the State Duma passed in 2012 are too harsh. Fines for violations at rallies are too high, their organizers should not be held responsible for the actions of protestors, and compulsory community service for violators of the law is a means of "suppressing dissent," the court ruled (Kommersant, p. 1; Vedomosti, p. 1).
Ahead of the G20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank heads in Moscow, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said one of the most urgent issues on the agenda is a proposal to assess risks for central depositories within the context of the reform of the OTC derivatives market. They will also discuss measures to regulate rating agencies and, like the G7, condemn currency wars (Kommersant, p. 2).
OIL & GAS
Gazprom, which could lose its monopoly on LNG exports from Russia, saw gas exports to Europe and the CIS drop 8.1% in 2012. Turkey was the only market to which gas exports grew, while Germany for the first time became the biggest buyer of Russian gas (Kommersant, p. 7; Vedomosti, p. 13).
METALS & MINING
Companies controlled by Russian businessman Ruslan Baisarov will build a rail line to the huge Elegest coal field at a cost of 150 billion rubles. Baisarov's TEPK will sign an agreement on the 410-km line with the authorities on Friday. He will also end up with the deposit itself, analysts and government officials believe (Vedomosti, p. 10).
Russia's Union of Gold Producers is proposing a new form of financing exploration for small miners. It is proposing a private-public fund, to be founded by major gold miners and the government, that would give small companies money for exploration in exchange for shares (Vedomosti, p. 12).
BANKING, FINANCE & INSURANCE
The Moscow Exchange's IPO, initially targeted to raise $500 million, drew orders from investors for nearly twice as much, though at the lower end of the price range. However, with a limited number of big investors, the exchange's shares are unlikely to see high trading volumes in the near future (Kommersant, p. 1; Vedomosti, p. 10).
The privatization of part of the government stake in VTB scheduled for the first half of the year could happen faster than expected. According to unofficial reports that have already pushed up the share price, Qatar's sovereign wealth fund might buy 7% to 15% of shares in Russia's second largest bank. The Qatar Investment Authority could reportedly invest up to $3.5 billion in the lender (Kommersant, p. 8; Vedomosti, p. 14).
Russian banks deposited over 200 billion rubles with non-resident banks in January after reducing such investment throughout the fourth quarter of 2012. Banks attribute the increase in trans-border deposits to an influx of funds from corporate clients and the resulting excess liquidity (Kommersant, p. 8).
RETAIL & CONSUMER MARKET
A State Duma deputy has written to Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich arguing for a ban on beer sold in plastic bottles due contamination with dibutyl phthalate, a suspected endocrine disruptor. Brewers in Russia produce about 50% of their beer in plastic bottles, and plastic bottle makers would stand to lose an estimated $450 million a year from a ban, while aluminum and glass producers would benefit (Kommersant, p. 1).
REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION
Russia's Supreme Arbitration Court might rule that the payments property developers make on investment contracts with regional authorities are donations. In that case, companies will have to pay additional profit tax on them. The precedent-setting decision could be made in a dispute between the firm Market and the Sochi administration (Vedomosti, p. 11).
Sheremetyevo Airport, which in 2012 grew faster than other airports in the Moscow hub, has begun to fall behind its rivals. Its passenger traffic grew 9% in January, compared to growth of 13.3% at Domodedovo and 14% at Vnukovo. The slowdown is attributed to Turkish Airlines' move to Vnukovo, the shutdown of Ukrainian airline Aerosvit and Transaero's decision to expand flights out of Vnukovo (Kommersant, p. 9).
AUTOMOTIVE & ENGINEERING
Concern Tractor Plants, a major Russian machinery group, is closing its plants in Krasnoyarsk - the Yenisei Combine Plant and Kraslesmash, and moving production of combines and timber harvesting machinery to its other plants. The company wants to redevelop the properties in Krasnoyarsk. Analysts said the decision was understandable given the company's difficult financial situation (Kommersant, p. 1).
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