Uralkali Names Osipov CEO After Change in Shareholders

OAO Uralkali named Dmitry Osipov chief executive officer of the world’s largest potash producer after a change in the Russian company’s owners that could see it revive a trading venture with Belarus for the key soil nutrient.

Osipov is deputy chairman of OAO Uralchem, which has bought a 20 percent stake in Uralkali, and his replacement of Vladislav Baumgertner takes effect tomorrow, Uralkali said in a statement today. Baumgertner is under house arrest in Moscow under a charge of abuse of office in his capacity as chairman of the potash venture with Belarus.

Billionaire Suleiman Kerimov and his partners sold a combined 47 percent in Uralkali almost four months after Baumgertner was arrested in Belarus on Aug. 26. Baumgertner announced late July that Uralkali was withdrawing from the potash venture because Belarus was selling cargoes outside of the partners’ agreement. He said Uralkali would step up production to win market share, roiling the $20 billion global market for the nutrient.

“The decision to appoint a new CEO has been taken in connection with the recent changes in the composition of the major shareholders of the company,” Alexander Voloshin, chairman of Berezniki-based Uralkali, said in the statement. “We wish Vladislav well in this challenging time. We continue to believe in his innocence and hope that the existing problems will be resolved as soon as possible.”

President Lukashenko

Baumgertner, 41, was kept under house arrest in an apartment in Minsk from September until his extradition to Russia on Nov. 21. He remains under house arrest in Moscow for the same charges, a condition of his return to Russia.

Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko called for a change of ownership at Uralkali before talks could resume on rebuilding a partnership to market potash, used to strengthen the roots of crops to make them more resilient. News of Osipov’s appointment was first reported on Dec. 20.

With Osipov installed as CEO, “the main people Belarus did not want to work with are gone from Uralkali, so we expect a prompt return to cooperation,” Elena Sakhnova, a VTB Capital analyst, wrote in a report today. “This is positive for the whole industry, as it would herald a return toward a more lucrative price-over-volume strategy.”

Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov’s Onexim Group completed the purchase of 21.75 percent of Uralkali from Kerimov’s foundation last week. Another company controlled by Prokhorov separately bought a further 5.34 percent held by Kerimov separately, two other people with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg News.

Uralchem, 95 percent owned by Minsk-born billionaire Dmitry Mazepin, last week also completed a deal to buy almost 20 percent of Uralkali from Kerimov’s business partners.

Osipov, 47, was Uralchem CEO from 2007 through 2011. He graduated from Gorkovskiy State University’s department of radio physics and cybernetics.

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