* Norilsk does not exclude cooperation with large traders
* Glencore, Trafigura meet Norilsk management
* Follows truce deal between co-owners, management reshuffle
* Traders have been mostly banned from Norilsk sales for years
By Dmitry Zhdannikov and Polina Devitt
LONDON/MOSCOW, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Norilsk Nickel may start working with Glencore or Trafigura to penetrate new markets, the Russian mining major said, signalling a thaw after years of refusing to do business with large trading houses.
The world’s largest nickel and palladium miner, which sells a number of metals via long-term deals with end-users, had for years turned down proposals to work with large traders, saying it needed stability rather than market volatility.
But a December government-backed truce reached by its main co-owners led to the departure of its previous managament team, which had opposed working with the trading houses.
“Norilsk Nickel has its own marketing strategy; this strategy implies the existence and development of its own distribution network,” Norilsk Deputy Chief Executive Sergey Batekhin said on Thursday.
“However, the strategy does not exclude cooperation with large traders like Glencore and Trafigura and others, especially if this cooperation can bring something new, for example, on markets that are unknown to us,” Batekhin said via a spokesman.
Glencore and Trafigura have held meetings with Norilsk’s new management, industry sources said, following the December deal to end a long-running dispute between Norilsk’s owners - billionaires Vladimir Potanin and Oleg Deripaska.
“Glencore and Trafigura representatives met with new Norilsk officials to introduce themselves,” a source told Reuters. “Right now, Norilsk is not selling metals to Glencore and Trafigura.”
Glencore and Trafigura declined to comment.
“We have had a meeting, but it was only introductory so far,” a trading source said.
The agreement between Norilsk’s co-owners brought in Roman Abramovich, the billionaire owner of the Chelsea soccer club, to act as a buffer between Potanin and Deripaska.
Under the deal, Abramovich will take a 20 percent voting stake in Norilsk, while Potanin was elected chief executive and will stay in the job for up to two years.
Deripaska, who had criticised the previous management’s marketing policies, owns a share in Norilsk through UC RUSAL , the world’s largest aluminium producer, in which Glencore also has a minority stake.
Glencore in 2010 offered a marketing deal to Norilsk that it rejected.
Viktor Sprogis, Norilsk’s ex-head of marketing, said last year Norilsk’s major interest was market stability, while Glencore as a trader was more interested in volatility.
Glencore has traded large volumes of Russian coal, grains and aluminium for decades and last year extended its reach to include large volumes of oil.
Glencore is due to merge with miner Xstrata later this year, making it one of the largest nickel miners in the world
Trafigura has had a slightly better experience. The trader bought a minority stake in Norilsk at the end of the last decade and also marketed some of its output.
The marketing contracts were small, however, and did not last long, Norilsk executives said last year.