Today in Russian Business – April 9, 2008

The IMF is predicting a cool down in Russia’s surging economic growth. They write in the World Economic Outlook, “In Russia and Ukraine, where banks borrowed heavily in international markets to finance rapid growth in domestic lending, spreads on external debt have widened. … The failure to act swiftly to contain inflation pressures could result in wage and price expectations ratcheting upward, putting at risk the hard-won gains from earlier disinflation policies” The Duma passed a new bill on foreign securities regulation today on its first reading, simplifying the rules and terms of access for premium foreign equities to the Russian stock market, creating a regional trading center like that of Germany or Switzerland. Yesterday the board of Norilsk Nickel voted against any change in the company’s board of directors, which is seen as a victory against Mikhail Prokhorov‘s attempt to sell his blocking stake to Oleg Deripaska’s Rusal. Today the European Union approved Renault’s $1 billion purchase of 25% of Avtovaz, giving the company access to the world’s most desirable automotive market, and three seats on the Avtovaz board. Although Apple’s popular iPhone product does not have a service agreement with any Russian carrier, thanks to smugglers, local sales of the device are booming. Rambler Media, a leading Russian Internet media and services group, said on Wednesday its net income for 2007 totaled $6.08 million – recovering from last year’s heavy losses. Big Four accounting group Ernst & Young has been brought into court in Russia to dispute a sizable back tax claim – making them the second auditor after PricewaterhouseCoopers to experience problems with the Russian government. Antigenics, the maker of a drug (Oncophage) that stimulates the immune system against kidney cancer, won approval to market the product in Russia after a study failed to meet the statistical standard in the United States.