Norilsk told to shelve buyback

 
City A.M. Reporter
NORILSK NICKEL, the world’s largest nickel and palladium producer, said yesterday that it had suspended a buyback offer for more than seven per cent of its shares following a court order.

A St Christopher & Nevis court issued the order following a legal complaint by Rusal.

Norilsk Nickel’s Corbiere unit, which made the $252 (£156) per share offer, said it will contest the decision.

“Corbiere does not believe that there is a basis for granting the injunction and intends to contest the order and the injunction relief granted,” it said in a statement.

The court case in the Caribbean Federation of St Christopher and Nevis is part of a larger battle between Norilsk Nickel shareholders Oleg Deripaska and Vladimir Potanin.

Deripaska (pictured), who controls a 25 per cent stake through aluminium giant Rusal, has clashed frequently with Potanin over the company’s strategy and the composition of its board.

Sources have said the cash-rich miner might scrap its 2010 dividend to fund the share buyback, which will cost close to $3.5bn.

This is seen as a blow to Deripaska, as he will not receive any funds to pay down debt at Rusal.

Norilsk, whose board and management are seen as closely aligned with Potanin’s interests, sought in December to end the dispute by offering Deripaska $13bn for his stake.