United Co. Rusal’s billionaire Chairman Viktor Vekselberg is considering a plan to sell Rusal’s 25 percent stake in OAO GMK Norilsk Nickel back to the nickel producer, two people with knowledge of the matter said.
Vekselberg is seeking to discuss with other Rusal owners a proposal that an offer of about $18 billion from Norilsk would guarantee a transaction, the people said, declining to be identified as the talks are private. Vekselberg has yet to gain support from Rusal’s largest single shareholder, Oleg Deripaska, and may not proceed with the plan, one of the people said.
Vladimir Potanin’s Interros Holding Co., owner of about 30 percent of Norilsk, and Deripaska’s Rusal have bickered over influence on the nickel producer’s board and use of the company’s cash since 2008. The proposed $18 billion price tag represents a 23 percent premium to Norilsk’s previous $8.75 billion bid for a 15 percent stake, rebuffed by Rusal this month.
Vekselberg, Leonid Blavatnik and their partners control 15.8 percent of Rusal, the world’s biggest aluminum producer, while Mikhail Prokhorov holds 17.02 percent. Vekselberg and Prokhorov were in favor of Rusal selling the stake back to Norilsk in February, when the nickel company’s offer of $12.8 billion for a 20 percent holding was rejected.
Rusal’s board authorized Vekselberg to study any offers to sell the company’s Norilsk stake that reflect the holding’s “fundamental value,” Vekselberg said in a letter to Norilsk’s board dated Sept. 6, the day after Rusal snubbed the latest buyback offer from Norilsk.
Vera Kurochkina, a spokeswoman for Rusal, declined to comment. Norilsk hasn’t received any “written proposal” from Vekselberg regarding the price of the stake, Erzhena Ishenko, a spokeswoman for the nickel producer, said by phone in Moscow. She declined to elaborate.
Andrey Shtorkh, a spokesman for Vekselberg’s Sual Partners, didn’t immediately return phone calls and e-mails requesting comment. Prokhorov’s Onexim Group had no immediate comment, its press office said.
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