Today in Russian Business – August 21, 2009

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has reiterated her preference for Magna in its bid for Opel and described herself as very skeptical’ about rival bidder RHJ International’s prospects.  Finally some good news for ailing Lada-maker Avtovaz, which has smashed a German market growth record, with sales climbing 138% in the first half of 2009 compared with the same period last year.  Retail sales dropped the most in almost ten years in July, falling for the sixth month in a row.  Prime Minister Putin has said that the government will double its diamond industry bailout and set aside 30-35 billion rubles to buy diamonds to the state reserve this year.  The government has handed out between 1,500 and 2,000 microloans in an attempt to support small and midsize entrepreneurs.  The government is likely to return to nickel export tariffs at a base rate of 5%, which is expected to raise $140 million every year for the next three years.  The British Council has won its appeal against Russian tax authorities, who claimed the organization had avoided around $6.6-million in taxes.