Russia's Onexim mulls buying Rusal debt: paper

MOSCOW Tue Apr 23, 2013 7:41am EDT

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov's Onexim group is considering buying the debt of aluminium giant RUSAL (0486.HK) to increase its influence over strategy, or may sell out completely, Onexim's chief executive was quoted as saying.

Onexim, which has a 17 percent stake in the world's largest primary aluminium producer, has been at loggerheads with its controlling shareholder, Oleg Deripaska, over corporate governance and its strategy regarding a 25 percent stake in nickel and palladium miner Norilsk Nickel (GMKN.MM).

"We are definitely not giving up. We have different ideas - from buying Rusal's debt in order to have a possibility to influence the situation as a creditor, to the possibility of exiting the company," Onexim CEO Dmitry Razumov was quoted by financial business daily Kommersant as saying.

Razumov said there were "preliminary discussions" about buying the debt, subject to price and market availability.

RUSAL's net debt of $10.8 billion partly stems from the purchase of the Norilsk stake in 2008 for an estimated $14 billion. Deripaska has refused to sell the Norilsk stake to cut the company's debt burden.

Prokhorov, who ran on a liberal platform and lost to Vladimir Putin in last year's Russian presidential election, has a fortune estimated by Forbes magazine at $13 billion, ranking him 10th on the Forbes list of Russia's richest men.

Razumov also said that Onexim may consider buying a 10.7 percent stake in state-controlled telecoms operator Rostelecom (RTKM.MM) from Konstantin Malofeev. A deal to sell the stake to tycoon Arkady Rotenberg unraveled earlier this month.

He also left the way open for Onexim to invest in the state-owned part of Rostelecom which the government may privatise at the end of this year.

"I think Rostelecom could be of a strategic interest to us," Razumov said, adding Onexim was keen to learn about the strategy of Rostelecom's new management and prospects for a merger with the Russian unit of Tele2 (TEL2b.ST) which has been recently bought by state-controlled bank VTB (VTBR.MM).

Onexim declined to comment.

(Writing by Maria Kiselyova; additional reporting by Polina Devitt; editing by Elizabeth Piper and Keiron Henderson)

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