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Mechel gets more time to repay loan, at a cost
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Debt-laden Russian coal miner Mechel (MTL.N) (MTLR.MM) will have to pay almost double the previous interest rate on a 13 billion rouble ($409 million) loan after it pushed back repayment to July from December, the company said on Monday.
Mechel piled on acquisitions - and debt - through the global slump and with bankers now showing impatience over its failure to sell non-core assets to steady its finances, equity investors have been fleeing the stock.
The hike in borrowing costs will pile pressure on Mechel, which is seeking to sell steel, ferroalloy and mining assets to reduce its short-term debts to a more manageable level.
Mechel, which had debts of $9.4 billion on September 1, secured the delay from state-run lender VTB (VTBR.MM) and the interest rate rose to 11.88 percent from 6.5 percent, financial statements showed.
But Renaissance Capital analyst Boris Krasnojenov played down the danger to the company's finances, saying Mechel could count on support from the Russian state if needed.
"I wouldn't say something critical has happened to Mechel. It's just that VTB must have some formal requirements on risky loans," said Krasnojenov.
A company spokesman said Mechel had attracted 24 billion roubles in five-year credit lines from Sberbank (SBER.MM) in mid-October to help with its short-term debt reduction plan.
The company has also been targeting the sale of some assets. Analysts said last month that Mechel could raise up to $4 billion through non-core asset sales.
Mechel, in which billionaire Igor Zyuzin owns a 65.5 percent stake, is due to repay $1.2 billion in debts by the end of the year, according to a company presentation last month.
The company wants to reduce its short-term debts to below $1 billion by September 2013, it said earlier this year.
Critical remarks from Russian leader Vladimir Putin sent the company's shares into a tailspin in 2008. He has recently praised Mechel for developing a Siberian Elga mining project, in what industry watchers interpret as a sign of state backing.
But worries about the business outlook have sent its proxy shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange down nearly 30 percent since they peaked in mid-September. They closed on Friday at $5.89.
($1 = 31.7765 Russian roubles)
(Reporting By Alexei Anishchuk; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Tom Pfeiffer)
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