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Rusal Chairman Said to Study $18 Billion Norilsk-Stake Plan

Sept. 20 (Bloomberg) -- United Co. Rusal Chairman Viktor Vekselberg is studying a plan to sell the company’s 25 percent stake in OAO GMK Norilsk Nickel back to the maker of the metal, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

Vekselberg aims to reach agreement with Rusal shareholders that an offer of about $18 billion would secure a deal, said the people, declining to be identified as the talks are private. He hasn’t won support from Oleg Deripaska, the largest shareholder, so may be unable to complete the plan, one of the people said.

Vladimir Potanin’s Interros Holding Co., owner of about 30 percent of Norilsk, and Deripaska have bickered over control of the board and use of cash since 2008. Rusal this month rebuffed Norilsk’s bid to buy back a 15 percent stake for $8.75 billion. Vekselberg’s plan, which has yet to be proposed to Norilsk, would represent a 23 percent premium to the rejected bid.

Rusal authorized Vekselberg to study offers that reflect “fundamental value,” he told Norilsk’s directors in a letter dated Sept. 6, the day after Rusal snubbed their proposal.

“It would be very hard for Norilsk to finance a deal like this, so such an offer could never happen,” Dmitry Smolin, an analyst at Uralsib Capital, said by phone from Moscow today.

Vekselberg, Leonid Blavatnik and their partners hold 15.8 percent of Rusal, the biggest aluminum producer, while Mikhail Prokhorov owns 17.02 percent. Vekselberg and Prokhorov favored a sale of the Norilsk stake in February, when Rusal rejected an earlier bid by the nickel maker of $12.8 billion for 20 percent.

Vera Kurochkina, a spokeswoman for Rusal, wouldn’t comment. Norilsk hasn’t received any “written proposal” from Vekselberg on a sale price, Erzhena Ishenko, a spokeswoman for the nickel producer, said by phone from Moscow, declining to elaborate.

Andrey Shtorkh, a spokesman for Vekselberg’s Sual Partners, didn’t immediately return phone calls and e-mails. Prokhorov’s Onexim Group had no immediate comment, its press office said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Yuliya Fedorinova in Moscow at yfedorinova@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Viljoen at jviljoen@bloomberg.net

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