Today in Russian Business – Feb 17th, 2009

Russian banks and companies may have earned as much as $25 billion using state bailout funds to bet against the ruble during its decline.  Industrial output fell dramatically by a fifth last month, including an 80% drop in car production, and the fall is feared by economists to herald a much larger than expected drop in GDP this year.  Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin is calling for another two to three weeks to complete the new budget – rumors abound that Kudrin is the anonymous minister accused of embezzling by the Investigative Committee.  Despite widespread job losses, a surge in hiring is reportedly being noted in the IT, consumer goods, fast food and debt collection industries.  D/S Norden, a European commodities shipping line, received a US judge’s order to seize as much as $98.3 million of assets from a unit of Oleg Deripaska’s RusAl as part of a shipping dispute.  A consortium led by Russian private equity firm Siguler Guff & Co could pay up to $230 million for a stake in Veropharm, a unit of Russia’s Pharmacy Chain.