MOSCOW, November 30 – RAPSI. Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin and aluminum giant Rusal will settle their disputes over ownership rights in the world’s largest nickel producer, GMK Norilsk Nickel in a London arbitration proceeding, Bloomberg reported Friday, citing sources close to the case.
The dispute amounts to more than $1 billion, hearings open December 3.
Rusal owner Oleg Deripaska owns a 25% stake in Norilsk Nickel, and Potanin’s Interros controls 28%. The two have long been grappling for control of the nickel giant. Rusal claims that the Norilsk board has been dominated by Interros loyalists since Rusal lost a board seat in a 2010 reshuffling.
According to Bloomberg, talks resumed last month on the terms of a new shareholder agreement, which if successful may inspire Rusal to drop its claim that the former shareholder agreement was breached.
The sources told Bloomberg that oligarch Roman Abramovich may step in to help to relieve tension over the ownership by buying 6.9% of the treasury stock. The agreement reportedly may also replace Vladimir Strzhalkovsky as Norilsk CEO.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has publicly expressed hope on at least two occasions that Norilsk’s majority shareholders would quickly arrive at a suitable agreement. In August 2010 he stated, "I do not care which of the shareholders owns a controlling stake, or in what ratio. What matters is that they solve the company's problems."
Norilsk Nickel is a diversified ore mining and smelting company, and the world's leading nickel and palladium producer. It operates industrial facilities in the Norilsk industrial region and on the Kola Peninsula in Russia, Finland, the United States, Australia, Botswana and South Africa.