January 23, 2013 18:18
Metalloinvest buys more Norilsk Nickel stock, but ready to sell stake if offer good - Uzmanov (Part 2)
DAVOS. Jan 23 (Interfax) - Alisher Usmanov's iron ore and steel holding OJSC Metalloinvest is growing its stake in Russian mining giant Norilsk Nickel (RTS: GMKN), but is prepared to sell shares if it gets a good offer, Usmanov said.
"We are increasing it [the stake in Norilsk Nickel]. When the opportunity arises, we buy. We already have more than four percent," Usmanov told the press on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos. Usmanov did not specify precisely how much of the mining company's stock Metalloinvest has, saying that it automatically grows when Norilsk Nickel cancels quasi-treasury shares.
Usmanov said that he has not been informed about plans at Roman Abramovich's Millhouse to increase its stake in Norilsk Nickel by buying Metalloinvest's stake. Reports of a possible increase of Millhouse's stake from 5.87% (that stake was bought from Interros and Russian Aluminum (Rusal) after the cancellation of Norilsk Nickel quasi-treasury shares) to 7.5%-10%, by means of buying up shares on the market, appeared right after the signing of the Norilsk Nickel shareholder agreement. Millhouse is not offering comment.
Usmanov did not rule out the sale of the Norilsk Nickel stake. "If there is a good offer, we're always ready to look at it. We have a portfolio stake there. And why buy? To make money. At the very least, at this point, if a global alliance does not come about," he said.
Rusal and Millhouse concluded an agreement in late December to end the long-standing shareholder feud at the company. Interros chief Vladimir Potanin, in line with the agreement, assumed the post of Norilsk Nickel's general director. The agreement also had Millhouse buying 5.87% of the mining giant's shares from Interros and Rusal, dividends rising to 50% of Norilsk Nickel EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization), the settlement of all Interros and Rusal disputes, parity for the majority holders on the company board of directors, and a five-year lock-up on the sale of Norilsk Nickel stock by parties to the agreement.
Commenting on the agreement, Usmanov said he doubts that Norilsk Nickel, in its new configuration, will be operating in the interests of all shareholders. The agreement was reached "privately," he said at the time, and Metalloinvest was not involved in the discussion of its terms. Following the announcement of those terms, Usmanov called on the mining company's majority holders to remember their responsibilities to the company and positioned himself as an proponent of the steady development of Norilsk Nickel, "to be a shareholder of which is a privilege." He said he was not planning to sell Norilsk Nickel shares.
A representative of Metalloinvest, the biggest minority holder in the mining company, might gain a seat on its board of directors, Potanin has said.
Interros organizations now hold 28.08% of the Norilsk Nickel stock, Rusal has 25.13%, and Metalloinvest 4%. Quasi-treasury shares amount to around 17%, and Norilsk Nickel is now engaged in the second phase of their cancellation.
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