January 24, 2013 / 2:25 PM / 5 years ago

CORRECTED-UPDATE 1-Prokhorov near deal to sell Polyus stake - sources

2 Min Read

(In paragraph 9, corrects team name to Brooklyn Nets from New Jersey Nets)

MOSCOW/LONDON, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is close to selling his 38 percent stake in Polyus Gold with a potential deal being reviewed by Britain's Takeover Panel, two sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

Prokhorov's Onexim holding company owns the stake in London-listed Polyus, the biggest Russian gold producer and valued at $3.6 billion at the close of trading on Wednesday.

In September, Polyus said Onexim was in talks with two potential buyers to sell its stake.

Polyus is 40 percent-owned by Suleiman Kerimov, also a billionaire and owner of Russian soccer club Anzhi Makhachkala.

Kerimov's company Nafta Moskva - through which he owns his stake - said in September it was in talks to finance a potential buyer of Onexim's stake but was not interested in buying the stake itself.

While the identity of the prospective buyers was not disclosed, they will likely be two Russian investors not connected to the sector, one source said.

Polyus shares were up 6.9 percent at 213 pence at 1415 GMT.

For Prokhorov, selling out would signal the abandonment by the businessman-turned-politician of an attempt to use Polyus as a platform for a global merger.

Prokhorov, owner of the U.S. Brooklyn Nets basketball team, ran in last year's Russian presidential election, placing third behind Vladimir Putin. He has since founded a liberal opposition party, Civil Platform.

"Prokhorov needs to get out of business to pursue his political career," said one source familiar with the prospective deal.

Polyus obtained a London listing last June, a step toward inclusion in the FTSE 100 index that Prokhorov had hoped would give the company a liquid acquisition currency for a major international merger.

Spokespeople for Onexim, Polyus and Prokhorov declined to comment. (Reporting by Douglas Busvine and Clara Ferreira-Marques; Writing by Megan Davies; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Dan Lalor)

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