Boss of Russian state-owned firm may join Norilsk board

Mon Feb 4, 2013 6:43am EST

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MOSCOW, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Russia's richest man Alisher Usmanov has nominated the head of state-owned Russian Technologies to the board of Norilsk Nickel, a sign of greater government influence at the world's largest nickel miner.

Billionaire Usmanov, owner of 4 percent of Norilsk, has nominated Russian Technologies chief executive Sergei Chemezov to Norilsk's board, Ivan Streshinsky, the head of Usmanov's USM holding, told Reuters on Monday.

Chemezov's nomination follows a government-backed deal in December to end a long-running power struggle between Norilsk's main owners - billionaires Vladimir Potanin and his rival, aluminium tycoon Oleg Deripaska.

The agreement brought in billionaire owner of Chelsea soccer club Roman Abramovich to act as a buffer between Potanin and Derispaska, who owns a share in Norilsk through UC RUSAL , the world's largest aluminium producer.

Under the December peace deal, Abramovich will take on a 20 percent voting stake in Norilsk, which mines the vast mineral deposits of Russia's far north.

Norilsk shareholders are due to elect a new board of directors at a meeting in March, for which candidates can be nominated up to Feb. 8. The composition of the new board aims to balance the co-owners' power in the company.

Chemezov was put forward as a candidate for Norilsk's board by state bank VEB in 2008. He had planned to be a representative of the state in Norilsk board at that time, but then removed himself from the list to focus on Russian Technology.

He has become one of Russia's most powerful figures under President Vladimir Putin, building a state-owned empire that includes the world's biggest titanium maker, Russia's biggest carmaker and one of the world's biggest arms exporters.

But Oleg Petropavlovskiy, an analyst from Russian brokerage BrokerCreditService (BCS), said Chemezov's influence at Norilsk would be limited.

"He will be only independent director, which means that control (over the board) will be kept by RUSAL, Potanin's Interros and Abramovich's Millhouse," Petropavlovskiy said.

Former De Beers CEO Gareth Penny is considered a likely candidate for chairman of the board of the Arctic miner, a source close to one of Norilsk's shareholders said.

Norilsk, Russian Technologies, RUSAL, Abramovich's Millhouse and Potanin's Interros declined to comment. (Reporting by Polina Devitt, Andrey Kuzmin and Gleb Stolyarov. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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