* Prokhorov’s 38 pct stake worth around $4 billion
* UK panel was examining whether buyers working together-sources
* Stake sale could be path to a possible Polymetal deal-sources
By Megan Davies and Clara Ferreira-Marques
MOSCOW/LONDON, Feb 21 (Reuters) - The sale of billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov’s $4 billion stake in Russian gold miner Polyus Gold to two Russian tycoons could be cleared by UK regulators as soon as this week, several sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.
The U.K. Takeover Panel had been reviewing the potential sale of 38 percent of London-listed Polyus to determine whether the buyers of the stake were acting together, or with existing investors.
Prokhorov’s disposal would mark the end of an era at the gold miner and for the investor, whose presidential ambitions were thwarted last year and whose hopes of an international merger went unfulfilled.
Three sources with knowledge of the proposed stake sale by Prokhorov said a Takeover Panel decision could come imminently - within days or hours.
“It is not final yet, but a decision is imminent,” one of the sources said on Thursday.
Polyus’ London-listed shares rose 1 percent.
There has been high industry interest in the Polyus deal, largely because of speculation it could pave the way for a tie-up with Polymetal.
Such a merger could create a company worth around $17 billion which could help Russia break into the world’s top three gold producers by mid-decade.
A merged company could also be first in line to develop the country’s untapped deposits such as Siberia’s Sukhoi Log, one of the world’s largest virgin gold deposits which is likely to be put up for tender soon.
Tycoon Suleiman Kerimov, who owns 40 percent of Polyus, could be in a central position to drive such a deal.
Kerimov, who has connections to the Kremlin, owned Polymetal between 2005 and 2008. He is also a co-owner of potash producer Uralkali with Polymetal shareholder Alexander Nesis.
However, there is scepticism that such a deal could be achieved by some analysts and industry insiders who say there are few synergies to be found between the two companies and that it would be difficult to agree a price.
The two buyers shortlisted for Prokhorov’s stake are retail boss Zelimkhan Mutsoyev and fruit juice magnate Gavriil Yushvayev.
The Takeover Panel had been evaluating whether the buyers had been working with each other and Kerimov, who said last year he may provide financing for a potential buyer.
If they had been found to act together the sale could have triggered a mandatory takeover for all outstanding shares worth roughly $2 billion at current prices.
The sources said the expected approval meant the buyers were deemed to not be acting together.