* Retailer Mutsoyev buys 18.5 pct
* Fruit juice magnate Yushvayev buys 19.3 pct
* Fuels speculation of Polyus-Polymetal merger
By Polina Devitt
MOSCOW/LONDON, Feb 22 Russian billionaire
Mikhail Prokhorov has sold his stake in London-listed gold miner
Polyus Gold to two Russian buyers for $3.6 billion
after approval from British regulators.
The sale marks the end of an era for Prokhorov, an
investor-turned-politician who ran for the Russian presidency
last year and now leads a small liberal political party in the
He had originally harboured ambitions for an international
M&A deal involving Polyus, which has now become the focus of
speculation about a merger in Russia with Polymetal.
Prokorov's Onexim group sold 18.5 percent of the Polyus
stake to Russian retail tycoon Zelimkhan Mutsoyev for $1.77
billion and 19.28 percent to fruit juice magnate Gavriil
Yushvayev for $1.85 billion. This was below the $3.8 billion
market price as of Thursday's close.
"Polyus Gold has been one of the major assets of Onexim
Group," said Dmitry Razumov, head of Prokhorov's Onexim, in a
statement announcing the deal. "We made the decision that the
time had come for Onexim Group to sell and realise its profit."
The deal had been under review by merger watchdog the UK
Takeover Panel over whether Mutsoyev and Yushvayev were acting
If the pair had been found to form a 'concert party'
together, or in relation to existing shareholder Suleiman
Kerimov, who owns 40 percent of Polyus, it would have triggered
a mandatory buyout offer to minority shareholders. Sources had
said on Thursday that Takeover Panel approval for the deal was
Prokhorov still has some big commodity holdings including a
17 percent stake in Russia's aluminium giant RUSAL and
mining company Intergeo, which may launch either a private
placement or an initial public offering of stock in Toronto this
The sale coincides with a falling gold price. Spot gold
prices have fallen more than 5 percent since December.
The Polyus deal has attracted a lot of investor attention,
due to speculation it could pave the way for a tie-up with
Polymetal, a company formerly owned by Kerimov, that would
create a mining business worth $17 billion.
"A merger with Polymetal is possible - it will depend on how
Polyus will develop," said Nikolay Sosnovskiy, analyst at VTB
A merged Polyus and Polymetal could have the resources to be
the first in line to develop Russia's untapped reserves 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.
Sosnovskiy expects Polyus to change its strategy in the near
future and also to increase dividend payments. "The company will
no longer focus on tripling production and will pay more
attention to investing responsibly," he said.
He expects Polyus's dividend yield to reach about 5 percent
in coming years, up from a previous 1-2 percent and an average
1.5 percent seen in the global gold sector.
Polyus shares were up 1.9 percent by 1007 GMT on Friday at
223.25 pence. Polymetal shares in London were up 2.8 percent.
Sources close to the discussions said that the Polyus deal
terms were agreed in December, prior to a rise in Polyus'
shares. Polyus' shares have risen about 7 percent since the end
Retail magnate Mutsoyev is a 53-year-old lawmaker for the
ruling United Russia party who started out as a dump truck
driver before going into business in the 1980s and building a
fortune estimated by Forbes magazine at $1.5 billion.
His family controls the Regions Group of shopping centres
and he joined Kerimov as a co-investor in the $24 billion merger
that created potash producer Uralkali in 2011.
Yushvayev, 55, is a former co-owner of juice and dairy firm
Wimm-Bill-Dann, now part of PepsiCo, whose net worth has
been estimated at $1.2 billion.
Kerimov's Nafta Moskva, which holds 40 percent of Polyus,
said on Friday that it was not involved in the deal with