Washington, March 1 (RFE/RL) - Despite the uncertainties raised by the Russian Presidential election campaign, North American companies continue to expand their involvement in Russia.
A small Washington area engineering firm says it has reached agreement with Polyot Enterprises of Russia on an 80 million dollar deal to use four Cosmos rockets to launch a global data messaging system of 26 low-earth-orbiting satellites.
The U.S. firm, Final Analysis Inc., says actual signing of the pact must await a U.S. Federal Communications Commission decision on licensing the system for two-way paging, messaging, and cargo-tracking. Final Analysis is among five companies vying for the license.
If the company wins the license, it plans to have Polyot launch the satellites from Plesetsk, Russia.
In a more mundane area of commerce, an investment group based in the Bahamas islands has taken control of the world's largest paperbag maker, the insolvent AOOT Segezhaumprom enterprise of Russia.
The Stratton Group, the private investment vehicle of financier-industrialist Michael Dingman, recently disclosed that it had taken a majority stake in the paper mill in the town of Segezha on the Russian-Finnish border. The shares were purchased anonymously from international institutional investors and employees of the firm who had received shares in a 1994 voucher privatization program.
The Russian government still owns 20 percent of the firm. Stratton has signed the Swedish forestry and paper group AssiDoman AB to take operational control of the company and restructure it to improve productivity and make it profitable on world markets.
A major Canadian company, meantime, says it has acquired an 80 percent participating interest in the Ametystovoe gold mine in Kamchatka, Russia. Far East Gold, Inc. of Montreal says it paid more than 2.6 million dollars and issued two million shares of stock to buy the stake in the mine, which has reserves of around 91,000 kilograms of gold and 312,000 kilograms of silver
More broadly, a New York-based insurance broker, Marsh & McLennan, Inc., says it has developed an insurance underwriting and crime protection program for smaller and mid sized companies operating throughout the former Soviet Union.
American firms have often complained that it is difficult, if not impossible, to get various forms of insurance for business operations and property in Russia and other neighboring nations.
The program, to be underwritten by a syndicate of international insurance companies, will provide up to 25 million dollars in protection for joint venture assets, imported and exported goods and employees at risk. Also available, says the company, will be a wide variety of cargo insurance, personal accident, medical and other insurance coverages.