RUSSIAN aluminium company Rusal was forced to defend its choice of new chairman yesterday after Sual Partners, one of its main shareholders, publicly panned the move last week.
Rusal said in a statement: “Barry Cheung’s election as a chairman was supported by a majority vote of the board, including the independent directors. This proves that his candidacy meets the interests of all shareholders, including minorities.”
The firm continued: “His appointment was also met by a marked rise in the company’s share price, which had been declining over the past few days under pressure from the emotional and groundless statements made by Sual Partners.”
Barry Cheung was elected on Friday, three days after former chairman Viktor Vekselberg stepped down amid an ongoing battle with Rusal main owner Oleg Deripaska (pictured) over the multi-billion dollar sale of a quarter stake in Norilsk Nickel.
Vekselberg blamed his departure on the “deep crisis” of heavy debt laid on Rusal by its management, but Deripaska claimed the chairman jumped before he was pushed for missing board meetings.
Cheung’s appointment prompted Sual Partners – the investment channel owned by Vekselberg, which holds 15.8 per cent of Rusal – to criticise the aluminium giant for not completing “a full-fledged examination of the candidates for the post of chairman”.
Sual continued: “The board of directors of the company, 80 per cent of the assets of which are located in Russia, should be chaired by a Russian citizen, whose independence from any of the major shareholders of Rusal is beyond any doubt.”
But Rusal refused to acquiesce to the complaints, retorting: “The appointment of a foreign citizen as chairman of the board follows the widespread practice of Russian companies and is in line with global best-practice corporate governance.”
Rusal operates in 19 countries across five continents.
The aluminium giant concluded: “Rusal would like to reiterate that Sual Partners’ destructive actions not only damage the company’s reputation, but also destroy its shareholder value. With this in mind, we are considering the option of pursuing legal action in order to protect the company’s interests.”
War of words: Rusal's response to comments from Sual on the election of its new chairman
“Rusal believes that none of the company’s shareholders should dictate or impose any decision to the board... We are considering the option of pursuing legal action.”
“Sual Partners’ destructive actions not only damage the company’s reputation, but also destroy its shareholder value.”
“Rusal considers Mr Shtorkh’s* personal comments on the company to be inappropriate and reflecting his personal judgment.”
* Vekselberg’s spokesman
“The share price had been declining over the past few days under pressure from the emotional and groundless statements made by Sual Partners.”