Nigerian Supreme Court Voids Alscon Smelter Sale to Rusal

Nigeria’s Supreme Court said the country’s Bureau of Public Enterprises didn’t have the right to cancel the sale of the Aluminum Smelter Co. of Nigeria, or Alscon, to Bancorp Financial Investment Group.

Justice Olushola Fabiyi, delivering the unanimous ruling of five judges today in Abuja, the capital, said Bancorp Financial had “a valid contract” for the smelter in 2004.

Russia’s United Co. Rusal Plc, the world’s largest aluminum producer, bought a 77.5 percent stake in Alscon in 2007 for $160 million, according to the court filings. Bancorp Financial said it had offered $410 million for the smelter, which is based in Ikot Abasi in the southeastern state of Akwa Ibom, and that it was seleced preferred bidder.

Rusal wasn’t a party to the litigation. The decision was made against Nigeria’s privatization agency and “does not, therefore, affect the rights of Rusal to this Alscon asset, which remain unimpaired,” Rusal said in an e-mailed statement.

The Supreme Court’s ruling is “consistent with the rule of law, fairness and equity,” Reuben Jaja, president of Bancorp Financial, told reporters today in Abuja, the capital.

The transactions were carried out as approved by the government, Chukwuma Nwokoh, a spokesman for the Bureau of Public Enterprises, said today by phone from Abuja. The agency will make further statements when it gets details of the ruling, he said.

(Corrects story published July 6 to show ruling related to Bancorp Financial in the first paragraph, and adds in third paragraph that Rusal wasn’t a party to the litigation and the court decision doesn’t affect the rights of Rusal to the smelter.)
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