Deripaska poised to snap up Rusal’s Norilsk Nickel stake

RUSSIAN tycoon Oleg Deripaska is ready to buy Rusal’s 25 per cent blocking stake in Norilsk Nickel to resolve a shareholder dispute at the world’s largest aluminium producer, a source close to the Rusal board said.

Deripaska’s gambit seeks a way out of a row with minority shareholder Viktor Vekselberg, who quit as Rusal’s chairman two weeks ago, saying the firm was in “deep crisis” and overburdened with debt.

A buyout of the stake by Deripaska, Rusal’s chief executive and largest shareholder, at a price reported to be around $9bn (£4bn), is likely to be resisted by minorities and may not be possible to finance, bankers and analysts say.

Rusal bought the holding in Norilsk Nickel, the world’s largest miner of nickel and palladium, for an estimated $14bn at the top of the market in 2008, and the company is still carrying an $11bn debt burden as a result.

“No official proposal has been made, but it would be the only right and beautiful way to resolve the problem,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

“As a result, Rusal’s debts would fall, the company would be able to pay out dividends to shareholders, raise its share price and concentrate on its aluminium projects.”

The Vedomosti business newspaper said yesterday that Deripaska was prepared to offer around $9bn for the stake, representing a premium of around three per cent to Norilsk’s closing share price on Friday.

Vedomosti, citing four sources, said Deripaska’s holding company En+ might pay $4.4bn in cash and assume a $4.6bn loan to Rusal from state-controlled Sberbank secured against the Norilsk stake. Norilsk shares rose after the reports.