MOSCOW. May 17 (Interfax) - The following is a digest of Moscow newspapers published on May 17. Interfax does not accept liability for information in these stories.
POLITICS & ECONOMICS
Most lawyers and employees of Russian and foreign companies are horrified by a bill that would introduce criminal penalties for those who comply with sanctions against Russia, which the State Duma passed in the first reading on Monday. The Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, in a resolution approved even by members who have been hit by sanctions, condemned the bill and said it contradicts the policy of the Russian president (Vedomosti, p. 1; Kommersant, p. 3).
Russian cabinet members will discuss raising the retirement age at a meeting with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday. After the meeting the Labor Ministry might be ordered to draft a bill to raise the retirement age to be considered by the State Duma in the current session. The Strategic Research Center proposal to raise the age to 65 years for men and 60 for women is seen as the baseline. The change could already go into effect in 2019 (Kommersant, p. 1).
Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry has drafted a reform of fire safety oversight in the wake of the deadly fire at a Siberian mall. It proposes that the targets of fire inspections should not be organizations, but the actual buildings, regardless of the status of their owners or tenants. It also calls for surprise inspections, quarterly fire drills, ministry licensing of fire safety systems, and for fire inspectors to have a say in assessing plans and issuing permits to build and open high occupancy buildings (Vedomosti, p. 3).
OIL & GAS
The deal between OPEC and non-OPEC countries to curb oil output succeeded in restoring balance to the market, the IEA acknowledged in its latest report. Oil prices, which have risen nearly 75% since June 2017, could climb further due to a dual blow to supply as a result of the possible reduction of exports from Iran and Venezuela. But a further increase in prices could also dampen demand in the second half of the year, the agency said (Vedomosti, p. 4).
Gazprom Neft might not be able to meet all the targets of its strategy for 2013-2020 due to the OPEC+ deal to curb oil output. The Russian oil company had planned to be producing 100 million tonnes of oil equivalent in two years and to maintain this level until 2025, but now this target might only be reached in 2021-2022. The company is curbing production at some mature fields and might continue this practice, a source said (Vedomosti, p. 11).
Inter RAO or its affiliates might complete the consolidation of shares in the Russian state power company this summer with the purchase of 23.5% of shares from Federal Grid Company and RusHydro. This will cost up to 100 billion rubles, but the company has the money, analysts said. As a result, state holding company Rosneftegaz and Inter RAO itself will tighten control over the power company, while FGC and RusHydro will get money for their investment projects (Kommersant, p. 1).
Rosenergoatom plans to expand its presence on the data storage market. The Russian nuclear power company intends to open two more data processing centers, in Irkutsk Region and at the Kola Nuclear Power Plant in Murmansk Region, and is considering similar projects abroad. The company expects savings on electricity will make it competitive thanks to lower prices (Kommersant, p. 10).
METALS & MINING
Alrosa, the world's biggest diamond miner, increased net profit by 40% and EBITDA by 37% in the first quarter of 2018 on revenue up 13%. The Russian company also reduced its debt by a third to a ten-year low of 58.8 billion rubles. Alrosa has so far managed to offset the loss of the Mir mine with sales from inventories. But it will no longer be able to do so in 2019, when it expects EBITDA to drop by 20 billion rubles or 15.7% (Vedomosti, p. 13).
BANKING, FINANCE & INSURANCE
Russia's Audit Chamber said there is a high risk that the Deposit Insurance Agency will not be able to meet its obligations to the Central Bank on a credit line of 1 trillion rubles provided to pay depositors of bankrupt banks. Sources at the agency claim it will be able to repay the money on time, by 2020. But while the fiscal watchdog might have miscalculated, analysts believe the DIA will still not be able to repay the debt before 2022 (Kommersant, p. 7).
Interview: Alexei Rybnikov, President of the St. Petersburg International Mercantile Exchange (Vedomosti, p. 8).
RETAIL & CONSUMER MARKET
The former head of X5 Retail Group's Pyaterochka chain, Olga Naumova has joined chief rival Magnit as executive director. She will be responsible for operational management, development, marketing and pricing at Russia's second largest retailer, which hopes Naumova will help it regain its lead. Other senior X5 executives, including the head of its Perekrestok chain, might follow Naumova to Magnit (Kommersant, p. 10; Vedomosti, p. 10).
TELECOMMUNICATIONS, MEDIA & TECHNOLOGY
Pavel Durov's Telegram Messenger Inc has filed a lawsuit in the United States against Lantah Llc claiming the California company violated its rights to the Gram trademark. Telegram has raised $1.7 billion to create its own TON blockchain platform and issue the cryptocurrency Gram, and plans to launch the platform in the fourth quarter of 2018. Lantah, established in 2017, says it also plans to launch a cryptocurrency called Gram (Vedomosti, p. 12).
TRANSPORTATION & LOGISTICS
Russia's Transport Ministry has tentatively estimated the cost of carrying out the president's orders to develop regional aviation at 180 billion rubles to 2024. A key measure could be to slash value-added tax to zero on regional routes other than Moscow. Viktor Vekselberg's Renova Group, which has been hit by sanctions, has long lobbied for this, and the ministry is prepared to accelerate the process, estimating that the tax break will save the industry 13 billion rubles per year (Kommersant, p. 1).
AUTOMOTIVE & ENGINEERING
Representatives of the military and industry discussed problems with the United Shipbuilding Corporation that are causing delays in fulfilling government defense contracts with President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. The president's intervention is supposed to help prevent similar problems in implementing Russia's new arms program to 2027, which allocates trillions of rubles for the development of the Navy (Kommersant, p. 1).
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