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First, the share of competitive markets has increased. According to enterprises evaluations, in 2003 the competition was rather perceptible on 91 per cent of domestic markets. It is the historical high registered since the start of monitoring in 1995. in 2003, the most significant increase was observed as concerns the share of markets where domestic products competed with goods imported from countries outside the NIS.

Towards the end of the past year, Russian producers experienced this type of competition already on 62 per cent of the markets. The pre-default maximum (registered in July of 1998) was at 60 per cent. Therefore, the presence of imports has already exceeded the levels observed in 1998. However, these developments entailed no catastrophic consequences for the domestic industry. First, on the whole Russian enterprises experience the most strong competition on the part of other Russian enterprises, and the intensity of competition with producers from countries outside the NIS is still below the level of competition among Russian producers.

The forecasts of changes in demand remained very optimistic over the last three months. In March there was reached a new record: the share of reports about expected increase in sales made 40 per cent. Earlier, the maximum value of this indicator was registered only at 37 per cent. At present, the most optimistic expectations relating to an increase in demand are registerd in chemistry, petrochemistry, and construction industry.

The balance of forecasts (as adjusted for seasonal factors) proved to be the most optimistic since October of 2000..

The plans of changes in output, similarly to forecasts of changes in demand, have demonstrated very high rates of optimism since the beginning of the year. The share of reports about the plans to increase output has been above 50 per cent for the third month running (such developments have been never observed before), while the balance (as adjusted for seasonal factors) has been registered at the best level since October of 2001.

S. Tsukhlo Foreign Trade In January of 2004, the Russias foreign trade turnover grew by 12.7 per cent in comparison with the figures registered in the respective month of the preceding year and made US $ 16.1 (according to the balance of trade methodology, in actual prices of the month).

In January of 2004, Russian exports made US $ 10.8 billion, what was by 13 per cent above the figures registered in January of 2003 and by 23 per cent below the level observed in December of 2003. Export to countries outside NIS made US $ 9.1 billion (by 11.2 per cent above the respective indicator of the preceding year).

-1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 Balance Export Import Source: RF Goskomstat Figure Main indicators of Russias foreign trade (in US $ bln.).

Russia has been actively exporting fuels, metals, lumber, paper, and chemicals. In January of 2004, there increased by 60.5 per cent volumes of export of ferroalloys, while unprocessed aluminum, nitrate mineral fertilizers, and anhydrous ammonia rose by 63.6 per cent, 20.8 per cent, and 53.5 per cent respectively. The amounts of export of machinery and equipment grew by 60.6 per cent. Products of heavy and power mechanical engineering accounted for the bulk of increase. Crude oil exports made 15.1 million metric tons rising by 12.4 per cent in comparison with the figures registered in the respective period of the preceding year.

In January of 2004, world oil prices continued to grow steadily (for more details on the dynamics of world oil prices, see the section Oil and natural gas sector).

Contract prices of Russian natural gas declined by 0.6 per cent in comparison with the figures observed in December of 2003.

In January of 2004, there was observed a rise in prices on the world market of ferrous metals. European export prices of major types of merchant rolled shapes and flat rolled products grew by 4 per cent and 2.2 per cent respectively.

In January of 2004, at the background of the global economic growth and the resulting increase in demand, the prices of non-ferrous metals continued to rise. The average nickel, copper, and aluminum prices increased in comparison with the figures observed in the December of the preceding year by 6.2 per cent (US $ 14855 per metric ton), 3. per cent (US $ 1610 per metric ton), and 11.2 per cent (US $ 2440 per metric ton) respectively. As compared with the levels registered in January of 2003, the prices of nickel, aluminum, and copper grew 1.9 times, by 24.6 per cent, and 1.5 times respectively.

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Table 1.

The average monthly world prices in January of the respective year 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 Oil (Brent), USD / metric ton 137,5 170,2 111,6 82,4 185,7 189,6 141,58 204,62 221,Natural gas, USD / thous. c. m. - 88,8 74,9 71,3 86,8 260,7 76,7 180,3 219,Gasoline, USD / metric ton 142,5 184,5 133,9 176,5 263,8 308,8 204,5 304,5 354,Copper, USD / metric ton 2553 2400 1682 1528,2 1887,9 1849,6 1557,8 1571,3 2441,Aluminum, USD / metric ton 1554 1598 1480 1301,4 1695,5 1641,5 1377,9 1291,1 1608,Nickel, USD / metric ton 7956 7485 5496 4550,8 8338,1 7091,3 6094,6 7643,9 14855,Source: calculated in accordance to the data presented by London Metal Exchange (UK), International Oil Exchange (London) According to the law On customs tariff, the Cabinet of Ministers should adjust the rate of the import oil duty every two months proceeding from the respective two month monitoring of the average crude Urals oil price on the world markets. According to the results of the monitoring, in January through February the price of Russias oil made US $ 28.3225 per barrel as compared with US $ 27.86991 per barrel registered in November through December of 2003. On April 1, 2004, there were introduced new rates of export duties on oil and oil products. The rate of the export duty on oil was set at US $ 35.2 per metric ton (earlier it made US $ 33.9 per metric ton). The rate of the export duty on light and medium distillates, gas oil, liquid fuels is set at US $ 31.7 per metric ton (earlier it made US $ 30.5 per metric ton). Since last December, the rate of the export duty on oil and oil products has been raised by US $ 2.45 per metric ton on the average. The most significant increase in the rate of the export duty was registered in the autumn of the preceding year (on October 1, it was increased by almost US $ 9). However, on December 1 the rate was reduced by US $ 2.6.

In January of 2004, imports to Russia made US $ 5.3 billion, what was by 12.1 per cent above the figures registered in January of 2003 and by 37 per cent below the levels observed in December of 2003. It should be noted that the import of goods and services from countries outside the NIS made US $ 3.9 billion (by 3.per cent above the figures registered in January of 2003).

Imports of equipment have been growing. This January, the share of equipment in imports was at 45.4 per cent, as compared with 38.5 per cent observed in January of 2003. Imports of cars have grown two times, while there was observed a decline in the import of food products and raw materials necessary for production thereof (18.7 per cent as compared with 24.9 per cent registered in January of 2003).

As compared with the figures observed in the preceding year, Russia increased import of fresh frozen fish by 30.3 per cent, while import of fresh frozen meat, poultry, and sugar declined by 71.5 per cent, 78.1 per cent, and 26.9 per cent respectively. These developments may be explained by the introduction of such protective barriers as quotas set on meat imports and rates of import duties on unrefined sugar pegged to the quotations of the New York Mercantile Exchange. However, the rules governing import of sugar and meat products to Russia may seriously change. Before May, there should be approved the law On agriculture, which may determine the perspectives of the sugar and meat markets for the next three years.

In January of 2004, Russia had the active balance of trade at US $ 5.5 billion, what was by 13.8 per cent above the figures registered in January of 2003.

In January of 2004, Russian exports to CIS member countries made US $ 1.69 billion, increasing by per cent in comparison with the level observed in January of 2003. The export of oil products rose more significantly (2 times), including the growth in diesel fuel and gasoline exports 3 times and 5 times respectively, while oil exports increased by almost 40 per cent.

In the first month of this year, Russias imports from this region increased by 45 per cent in comparison with the figures registered in January of 2003. The structure of respective Russian imports was dominated by food products and agricultural produce. For instance, import of wheat and barley rose more than 5 times, while milk and condensed cream imports grew 12 times.

In March of this year, the Russian customs authorities detected several instances, when refined cane sugar was imported from Belorussia as sugar produced from beets. According to the legislation currently in force, sugar produced or refined from Belorussian raw materials is exempt from customs duties. However, as concerns sugar produced from raw materials imported to Belorussia, it is subject to the normal customs treatment, i.e. clearing involving the payment of all duties. The total volume of sugar found to be illegally exported from Belarus to Russia made about 435 metric tons. It should be noted that Belorussia produced only 254 thousand metric tons of sugar from the sugar beet crops of 2003, at the same time the volumes of Belorussian sugar exports to Russia exceeded 260 thousand metric tons only in the period from November of 2003 till March of 2004. It should be also noted that import of refined sugar from such CIS member countries as Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Moldavia, and Ukraine made only 89.1 thousand metric tons.

Therefore, Russian customs authorities undertook additional measures to control sugar imports from Belarus in order to prevent evasion of customs duties on the part of unscrupulous participants of external economic activities.

In the first two months of the year, the customs authorities transferred to the federal budget more than Rub. 140.54 billion, what was by Rub. 41.5 billion above the figures registered in the respective period of the preceding year. A major factor facilitating these developments was the entry into force of the new Customs Code on January 1, 2004. The new Code meets international standards and seriously simplifies the rules governing the conduct of external economic operations.

The performance of the customs working in accordance with the new Code improved dramatically. For instance, 80 per cent of declarations are processed in one day in stead of three days established by the law, what is the result of the radical reduction in the number of documents and data required by the customs authorities. At present, customs request only the documents necessary for identification of goods and application of tariff and non-tariff regulations. No other documents are required.

There were abolished thousands of instructions regulating relations between participants of external economic activities and the customs authorities. The new law contains practically all requirements the participants of external economic activities should comply with. In the nearest future, the Federal Customs Service is planning to supplement the new Customs Code with about 100 orders and instructions interpreting enforcement of certain provisions of the Code. It should be noted that previously there had been about 4.thousand bylaws and regulations in force.

In the first few months, the implementation of the new Customs Code will require a close monitoring of the relevant enforcement practices, detection of flaws and merits of the new customs legislation, and accumulation of positive experience pertaining to the reform of the Russian customs service aimed to improve its performance in the interests of foreign trade and the national economy at large.

N. Volovik, N. Leonova Mergers and takeovers in In quantitative terms, it may be asserted that the number of transactions in the sphere of mergers and takeovers has significantly increased (see Table 1). This trend observed in Russia completely corresponds with the international patterns, which demonstrate that waves of mergers and takeovers are traditionally registered in the periods of economic growth. At the same time, in Russia these processes are underway at the background of a decline in mergers and takeovers registered in Western countries (after the peak of mergers and takeovers observed in 2001, the results of 2003 look especially modest).

As Table 1 demonstrates, in comparison with the figures registered in 1999 and 2002, the total amount of transactions observed in 2003 increased 7 times and 2 times (with the exclusion of the TNK BP deal) respectively. The total number of transactions increased almost 4 time as compared with the figures observed in 1999, while the increment in the number of deals registered in 2003 in comparison with 2002 made about 30 per cent. In 2002 through 2003, the average value of merger and takeover transactions in Russia (without the YUKOS Sibneft and TNK BP deals) increased by 47 per cent, from US $ 17 million to US $ 25 million. Almost 2/3 of transactions were conducted in Russia. In 1999, the number of takeover of Russian companies on the part of foreign firms exceeded the opposite process 3 times (takeover of foreign companies by Russian entities), while in terms of amounts of transactions the excess made 23 times. In 2003, both these indicators were much more similar: the number of takeovers of Russian companies by foreign firms exceeded the opposite process (takeover of foreign entities by Russian companies) only 1.2 times, while in terms of amounts of transactions the excess made 2.5 times14. Naturally, as concerns these processes, it is impossible to assess the share of genuine foreign capital in contradistinction to repatriated Russian funds;

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