Russia's RUSAL wins Siberian court ruling against Norilsk

MOSCOW Tue Oct 9, 2012 12:27pm EDT

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MOSCOW Oct 9 (Reuters) - Russian aluminium group RUSAL has won a legal claim against Norilsk Nickel , the world's top nickel and palladium producer, which it partly owns, signalling that long-running tensions with its other owner may escalate.

The dispute relates to the 2011 buyback of 7.7 percent of Norilsk's shares by Norilsk Nickel Investments Ltd, a Cyprus-based company. RUSAL claims the money spent on buying back those shares could have been better deployed to help the company's development.

A court in the Krasnoyarsk region of Siberia ruled in favour of RUSAL's claim and declared a decision to carry out the buyback, approved last year by Norilsk's board, invalid, RUSAL said in a statement.

Norilsk said in separate statement that it planned to appeal against the verdict, which it said would not have "any substantial effect on the company's liabilities or any financial indicators".

The court supported RUSAL's claims that the decision of Norilsk's board violated Russian law on foreign investments in Russian companies, which are of strategic importance to the country.

In 2011, Norilsk spent about $9 billion on several buybacks. The total market value of the shares which Norilsk bought back in 2011 stands at $5 billion, the aluminium company added.

RUSAL owns 25 percent of Norilsk and is locked into conflict with Vladimir Potanin, Norilsk's largest shareholder, over governance, board control and returns to shareholders. (Reporting by Polina Devitt; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)

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