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Norilsk Ownership May Be Clarified by Law Change, Otkritie Says

OAO GMK Norilsk Nickel shareholders may have to declare their interests in the company after changes to Russian law, shedding light on a three-year fight for control between its billionaire owners, according to Otkritie Capital.

Norilsk, the world’s largest producer of nickel, failed to identify buyers of as much as an 8 percent stake in its 2010 accounts, auditor KPMG LLP said in the producer’s annual report. Norilsk in December agreed to sell 8 percent to Trafigura Beheer BV in a deal described as “fictitious” by billionaire Oleg Deripaska, one of the nickel company’s feuding shareholders.

The law changes may be “especially pertinent regarding the lack of clarity of the final beneficiaries of the 8 percent stake” sold to Trafigura, Otkritie wrote in a report.

The amendment adopted by parliament’s lower chamber means depositary receipt holders receiving dividend payments will from Jan. 1 need to disclose the ultimate beneficiary, Otkritie said. It also passed a second of three readings for rules to classify as a single group companies and individuals who successfully propose a chief executive officer or half of a company’s board.

Deripaska, with a 25 percent stake in Norilsk through aluminum producer United Co. Rusal, is locked in a battle for control of the nickel company’s funds with billionaire Vladimir Potanin and his Interros Holding Co., which had about 30 percent before Norilsk began a $4.5 billion buyback program.

Rusal supports the changes to Russia’s corporate law, said Vera Kurochkina, a spokeswoman for the aluminum company. Erzhena Ischenko, a spokeswoman at Norilsk, declined to comment.

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