MOSCOW. July 1 (Interfax) - The following is a digest of Moscow newspapers published on July 1. Interfax does not accept liability for information in these stories.
POLITICS & ECONOMICS
President Vladimir Putin and President Petro Poroshenko agreed on Monday to push for a bilateral ceasefire agreement between Kyiv and rebels in southeastern Ukraine. Putin also proposed Ukrainian border guards and OSCE observers monitor the border on the Russian side in the area of the insurgency. Moscow's increased involvement in de-escalating the Ukrainian crisis will essentially deprive the West of reasons to toughen sanctions against Russia (Kommersant, p. 1).
Russia's Federal Anti-Monopoly Service has prepared a method to determine monopolistically high prices on resource markets, and at major metals and building materials. This will help companies avoid claims from the regulator, analysts believe (Vedomosti, p. 12).
OIL & GAS
Russian gas giant Gazprom might get a stake in one of Wintershall's assets in Argentina in a deal that might be part of an asset swap with the German company's parent BASF. One of the main options is the already operating Carina and Aries offshore fields. Legally binding documents might be signed in mid-July (Vedomosti, p. 12).
Having the former wife of Rosneft president Igor Sechin as a shareholder has not saved Arkhenergosbyt from criticism at the highest levels. President Vladimir Putin has ordered the government to consider replacing the electricity supplier of last resort in Arkhangelsk Region at the request of the governor (Kommersant, p. 9).
Russian Grids is seeking to change the principles for compiling its investment programs and tariff regulation. Due to government decisions the group's companies have repeatedly had to postpone investment. Deferred investments will reach 168 billion rubles by 2017 and in order to factor them in without a steep hike in tariffs the group is proposing to extend the period of regulatory asset base regulation to eight-ten years (Kommersant, p. 11; Vedomosti).
Interview: Andrei Murov, CEO of Federal Grid Company (Kommersant, p. 14).
METALS & MINING
The Fesco Group, a division of Ziyavudin Magomedov's Summa Group, has signed a memorandum with UC Rusal on the construction of an alumina terminal for 2 million tonnes at the Zarubino port in Russia's Far East. In order to join the project, the heavily indebted aluminum giant will have to find money or guarantee transshipment volumes (Kommersant, p. 11).
BANKING, FINANCE & INSURANCE
Despite the revival on Russia's domestic debt market, bond offerings in the second quarter of 2014 were down by almost half year-on-year to about 320 billion rubles, largely due to the reduction of OFZ federal bond placements. The only market segment to show some growth compared to last year was offerings of sub-federal bonds, which do not create a significant burden on bank balance sheets (Kommersant, p. 9).
The Russian Central Bank's commission for selecting the technology foundation for a national payment card system, unable to choose between Zolotaya Korona and Sberbank's UEC, has put off the decision by a month. The reason for the delay is a desire to shift the responsibility for the decision onto the future head of the payment system operator, as well as the Central Bank's lingering desire to build the system from scratch (Kommersant, p. 10).
Russian banks are in a bind, as it is becoming ever more difficult to increase their loan portfolios, while the share of bad debts is continuing to grow. In May the share of nonperforming retail loans rose from 6.8% to 7.1%, the highest figure since June 2011. But at that time loan portfolios were smaller, so the amount of NPL has soared 150% to 723.4 billion rubles (Vedomosti, p. 11).
RETAIL & CONSUMER MARKET
Rostec not only wants to become Russia's only supplier of vaccines for the national immunization calendar, but also their only manufacturer. The state corporation and Healthcare Ministry are proposing to set up production of vaccines at state enterprise NPO Mikrogen. Government spending on vaccines grew to 11.2 billion rubles in 2014 and could increase further in 2015-2016 (Vedomosti, p. 1).
AliExpress, a leader in online retail sales between China and Russia that is owned by China's Alibaba.com, has selected Yandex.Money as a partner and will begin accepting payments through the Russian service as of July 1. The payment system expects to boost turnover in the retail segment by about 10% in the first month of working with AliExpress (Vedomosti, p. 11).
Interview: Charles, Earl of March, CEO of Goodwood Estate Company (Vedomosti, p. 8).
TELECOMMUNICATIONS, MEDIA & TECHNOLOGY
Russian legislators battling pirated content are proposing to impose fines not only on hosting providers and website owners, but also on regular Internet users. Under the proposed amendments, downloading or even reposting a video or photograph could cost users up to 2,000 rubles. Online streaming of sporting events might also fall under the law (Kommersant, p. 1; Vedomosti, p. 10).
Igor Putin, the cousin of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been appointed to the board of Communications for Innovations, the flagship company of Inoventica, an IT group that is developing cloud computing technologies. The company hopes he will help raise investment and implement the group's new strategy (Kommersant, p. 1).
Potential buyers of Sanoma's stakes in Sanoma Independent Media, one Russia's largest publishing houses, and Sanoma Media Ukraine will have to submit preliminary bids this week. Citibank, acting on behalf of the Finnish company, is reportedly in talks with five suitors (Vedomosti, p. 10).
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