Russia 090421 Basic Political Developments

UPDATE 1-Rambler Media EBITDA up, cost saving to continue

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UPDATE 1-Rambler Media EBITDA up, cost saving to continue
Tue Apr 21, 2009 2:59am EDT

* FY EBITDA rises 112 pct, revenue up 59 pct

* Says cut 10 pct jobs

* Says cost-saving measures to continue in 2009 (Adds details)

April 21 (Reuters) - Russian Internet company Rambler Media Ltd (RMG.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) posted higher EBITDA and revenue for 2008, helped by a growth in display and banner advertising, and said cost-saving measures initiated in the fourth quarter would continue in 2009.

Rambler said it cut about 10 percent jobs to 660 employees at the end of the year from October 2008 levels.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose to $16.1 million, compared with $7.6 million in the year-ago period, the UK-registered owner of Russia's search engine and on-line newspaper said.

Revenue rose 59 percent to $110 million for the year.

The company said adverse macroeconomic conditions in the fourth quarter, which is usually its strongest period, halted the progress that was shown in the previous five quarters.

Rambler, the only listed Russian Internet firm, is part of Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin's holding company Prof Media.

Rambler shares closed at 5.56 pence on Monday on the London Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Purwa Naveen Raman in Bangalore; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)

Alfa Bank Profit Falls 9.2%

Alfa Bank's profit fell 9.2 percent last year as it increased provisions for bad loans, Alfa said in an e-mailed statement Monday.

Net income dropped to $230.1 million in the 12 months to Dec. 31, compared with $253.5 million a year earlier, it said. The lender's operational revenue rose 20 percent to $1.21 billion. (Bloomberg)

Russia braces for fewer tourists
Published: April 20, 2009 at 3:41 PM

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, April 20 (UPI) -- Russians are bracing for a decline in international travel critical to cities like St. Petersburg that are heavily dependent on the tourist industry.

About 18 percent of the jobs in St. Petersburg or 500,000 jobs in the city rely on tourism, said Mariana Ordzhonikidze, who heads the city's tourism department, the Moscow Times reported Monday.

The department expects a 30 percent drop in the number of foreign travelers this year and a 15 percent drop in Russians traveling to the city, Ordzhonikidze said.

"We are all very troubled and discouraged," she said.

The World Tourism Organization reported international tourism would contract by 2 percent this year, the first decline since the organization began keeping track in 2003.

In response, Russian tourism departments are hoping to interest Russians in spending their vacations near home, a dynamic the global recession has already begun.

In the first quarter of 2009, the number of Russians traveling abroad dropped 25 percent, said Anatoly Yarochkin, head of the Federal Tourism Agency.

Amid the downturn, "we have asked the government to consider making summer sanatorium and health resort visits tax deductible for retirees and youth. We hope the measure is approved," Yarochkin said.

Sevmash to produce containers for radioactive waste

Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk, Arkhangelsk Oblast, starts series production of a new type of containers for used radioactive fuel for Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant.

Sevmash and Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant (LNPP) have concluded an agreement on production of 30 containers for storage and transportation of radioactive waste, a press release from the company reads.

The shipyard in Severodvinsk has earlier produced containers for used radioactive fuel from submarines and icebreakers. The containers for LNPP are larger and heavier than earlier produced types. They are four meters high, 2.4 meter in diameter and weigh 88 tons.

Activity in the Oil and Gas sector (including regulatory)

Crude production up, Russia says


Published: April 20, 2009 at 11:50 AM

MOSCOW, April 20 (UPI) -- Crude oil production from Russia is expected to boast modest gains in 2009 despite earlier forecasts of a decline in the industry, officials said.

The output of crude oil from Russia for 2008 and the first two months of 2009 fell about 1 percent, but March output saw a modest increase of 0.4 percent to 9.76 million barrels per day.

The Russian Energy Ministry said it expects that trend to continue for the rest of the year, with an increase of as much as 2 percent, the Platts news service reports.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, however, had predicted declines in crude output to 9.6 million barrels per day, or roughly 1.1 percent, as the global economic recession trickled over to oil field maintenance and production levels.

The Platts report said, however, that declining export duties and a plummeting value of the ruble may have prompted Russian oil producers to ramp up production in an effort to offset any losses.

Russia is the second-largest oil producer in the world and boasts proven oil reserves of around 60 billion barrels.

Turkmenistan: Russian Ministers Sent To Ashgabat For Gas Talks


Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko and Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin will undertake an emergency mission to Ashgabat for talks aimed at stabilizing Russian-Turkmen gas relations.

The talks are scheduled for early this week, a Kremlin source told the Interfax news agency on April 20. "The topic of the negotiations should be cooperation in the gas sphere," the agency reported.

It is unclear whether Shmatko and Sechin will attend an energy security conference due to be held in the Turkmen capital on April 23-24. The announcement of the Russian duo’s mission to Turkmenistan came after Ashgabat launched a high-octane attack on the Kremlin’s record as a gas partner.

A commentary published on the semi-official insinuated that Russia, struggling with a gas glut and falling prices, had purposefully allowed a blast to disable the Davletbat-Daryalik pipeline on April 9.

It would be "counterproductive to engage in confrontation with Turkmenistan - and more expensive," the commentary warned, adding that Turkmenistan had recently spent $1 billion upgrading the pipeline contrary Russian media reports suggesting the explosion had been caused by worn-out infrastructure.

Experts say the Turkmen budget would be battered by a permanent reduction in gas exports to Russia. But equally, Gazprom may have overstretched itself in its attempt to gain a monopoly on regional energy reserves.

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