MOSCOW Nov 8 Norilsk Nickel, the
world's top nickel and palladium miner, plans to cancel 10
percent of its shares held in treasury by next April, in a move
that would balance the power of its main owners as they seek
resolve a long-running conflict.
The cancellation of treasury stock accumulated in a series
of share buybacks is expected to be finished by April, one month
later than previously expected, Norilsk board member Marianna
Zakharova told Reuters via email on Thursday.
Zakharova is also a deputy chief executive for legal issues
at Interros, the holding company of Russian billionaire Vladimir
Potanin, the largest Norilsk shareholder with a stake of 28
Interros is in talks to settle a long-running dispute with
aluminium giant RUSAL, which owns 25 percent of
Norilsk, over governance, board control and returns to
A series of Norilsk buybacks, which prompted it to
accumulate treasury shares, has been opposed by Oleg Deripaska,
the CEO and main shareholder of RUSAL, which is struggling to
work off a large debt burden.
Interros and Norilsk management together control the miner's
board and the fact that they chose not to block the cancellation
of the shares is seen by analysts as evidence of progress in
talks between the shareholders.
"Nine out of 13 directors voted in favour," Alfa Bank's
analysts said in a note. "This suggests that Interros and RUSAL
are aligned on this issue and signals that there is a desire of
the two sides to work together."
Sources familiar with the shareholder talks played down any
link with the planned cancellation of the treasury stock, first
made public by Interros in June.
"The opinions of RUSAL and Interros regarding the share
cancellation plan coincided during the summer. But it is only
one episode, that's why there is no need to overestimate it,"
said a source close to one shareholder.
After the share cancellation, the combined stake of Interros
and Norilsk management would decrease to 39 percent from the
current 45 percent, while RUSAL and iron ore maker
Metalloinvest, which currently owns 4 percent, would rise to 32
percent from 29 percent, Sberbank CIB said in a note.
The composition of the Norilsk board would not change to
reflect the shift in ownership until its annual shareholders
meeting, typically held in the month of June.
(Reporting by Polina Devitt and Andrey Kuzmin; Editing by
Douglas Busvine and Mark Potter)