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Norilsk Names Ex-De Beers Chief Gareth Penny as Board Chairman

OAO GMK Norilsk Nickel Chief Executive Officer Vladimir Potanin
OAO GMK Norilsk Nickel Chief Executive Officer Vladimir Potanin told reporters today Norilsk may declare a dividend after its financial report is ready in April. Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

OAO GMK Norilsk Nickel appointed former De Beers chief Gareth Penny as chairman after the nickel company’s biggest owners ended a four-year feud over governance.

Penny was elected as investors chose a 13-member board today to reflect changes in shareholder structure, Chief Executive Officer Vladimir Potanin said in Moscow. Potanin’s Interros Holding Co. and United Co. Rusal, the two largest shareholders, have four representatives each.

Norilsk, Russia’s biggest mining company, is bringing in a fresh board to revive a share price that’s down 20 percent in two years. Interros and billionaire Oleg Deripaska’s Rusal signed an agreement in December to end a conflict that had divided investors over management and distribution of profits. Norilsk may declare a dividend after its financial report is ready in April, Potanin told reporters today.

Penny is already chairman of coal miner New World Resources Plc, and previously served as De Beers chief executive officer from 2006 to 2010. His appointment at Norilsk today marks his first election to the board as an independent director.

Enos Banda, founder of Freetel Capital Ltd., and Cornelis Prinsloo, majority owner of Natural Resource Partnership Ltd., also were named independent directors.

Rustech head Sergey Chemezov won a seat after being nominated by billionaire Alisher Usmanov’s Metalloinvest, which has a 4 percent stake in Norilsk. The final member is Sergey Bratukhin, who sits on several boards of companies run by billionaire Alexander Abramov. He was recommended by Roman Abramovich’s Millhouse Capital, Potanin said.

Abramov and Abramovich are partners at steel producer Evraz Plc, and may also team up at Norilsk, Vedomosti reported in December. Millhouse Capital agreed to buy a 5.9 percent stake in the nickel company from Potanin and Rusal as a part of the agreement to balance the board.

Potanin, Rusal and Millhouse will close the deal by the end of April, the CEO said today.

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