Today in Russian Business – Jan 19th, 2009

The ruble fell below the weakest level seen in the 1998 Russian crisis after the central bank devalued it for the sixth time in seven days, and reports say that Russians are hoarding US currency over fears of total economic collapse.  Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin has warned that consumer prices could rise by 13% this year, and that the economic growth rate could slow to 0-2%.  Russia’s Central Bank has issued a license to a subsidiary of Goldman Sachs, with one analyst saying that the deal shows continuing foreign investor interest in the Russian market.  The usually pro-Kremlin Mikhail Gorbachev has accused the government of bailing out billionaires at taxpayers’ expense, and the British government has responded angrily to reports that the Royal Bank of Scotland wrote off a £2.5 billion loan for oligarch Leonid Blavatnik.  A CEO at Norilsk Nickel says the mining company isn’t planning to merge with Rusal.  The CEO of Russia’s Sberbank and Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov reportedly discussed combining the two countries’ resources in a bid to dictate prices on world markets.  The head of the Moscow Advertising Committee is being investigated on suspicion of embezzling more than $4 million.  Chelsea Football Club is denying reports that owner Roman Abramovich wants to sell it to a buyer in the Middle East.