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Kerimov Sought 51% of Alrosa, BHP Diamond Merger, Vedomosti Says

Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov urged the government to offer 51 percent of diamond miner OAO Alrosa under its asset sale program, Vedomosti said today, citing unidentified government officials.

Kerimov aimed to buy the controlling stake in Alrosa, merge it with BHP Billiton Ltd.’s diamond assets and hold a public offering of shares in the combined company, the Moscow-based newspaper said.

Alrosa said March 16 its board recommended a gradual sale of the state’s interest, starting with a 14 percent stake.

It makes sense for the government to sell 51 percent in Alrosa as the price would include a premium for control, while selling in smaller lots benefits company management, Anton Averin, a spokesman for Kerimov’s Nafta Moskva investment company, said by telephone today when called by Bloomberg News. Nafta Moskva holds 1 percent of Alrosa, he said.

Alrosa’s press office in Moscow declined to comment, as did Ruban Yogarajah, a London-based BHP Billiton spokesman. BHP said Nov. 29 that it’s studying the sale of some or all of its diamond units, saying the operations may no longer fit with its strategy.

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