Norilsk says not interested in Kerimov's Uralkali stake

MOSCOW Wed Sep 11, 2013 4:28am EDT

A man sits in the reception room of the office of Norilsk Nickel company in Moscow, January 28, 2013. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

A man sits in the reception room of the office of Norilsk Nickel company in Moscow, January 28, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Norilsk Nickel (GMKN.MM), the world's biggest nickel producer, has no interest in buying a 21.75 percent stake in Russian potash company Uralkali (URKA.MM) owned by billionaire Suleiman Kerimov and is not in talks, the company said on Wednesday.

Part-owner Interros, which manages the assets of Norilsk head Vladimir Potanin, is also not interested in the stake, is not in talks and has not received an approach from Kerimov, an Interros source said.

Larissa Zelkova, deputy general director of Norilsk, said Norilsk had no interest in the asset.

The Wall Street Journal earlier reported that Norilsk was among the bidders for the stake.

Speculation has been building in the Russian press that buyers are lining up to purchase the stake Kerimov owns in Uralkali, held through the tycoon's foundation.

Shares in Uralkali, which dropped nearly 19 percent when the firm said in July that it had quit a joint venture with Belarus, have rallied this week on the speculation.

Unsourced reports in the Moscow financial press mentioned as bidders: construction tycoon Arkady Rotenberg, a former judo partner of President Vladimir Putin; oil investor Mikhail Gutseriev; and banker Vladimir Kogan.

None of those speculated about have yet confirmed any interest. Telecoms-to-retail billionaire Vladimir Yevtushenkov, also named, has issued a denial.

Rotenberg's representative declined to comment on Tuesday, while Gutseriev and Kogan could not immediately be reached for comment.

(Reporting by Polina Devitt; Writing by Megan Davies; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Dale Hudson)

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