* Uralkali stake worth around $2.9 bln
* Shares up 2.5 pct
* Follows sale of Kerimov's 21.75 pct stake
(Releads, adds analyst quotes, share reaction)
MOSCOW, Dec 2 Belarus-born billionaire Dmitry
Mazepin will buy a 20 percent stake in top world potash producer
Uralkali through his fertiliser firm Uralchem, in the
latest move by Russia to mollify Belarus after the collapse of a
The deal, worth about $2.9 billion based on Uralkali's
closing share price on Friday, is the second ownership rejig at
the Russian potash producer since it quit the joint venture with
Belarus, which sparked fury in the ex-Soviet neighbour and hit
global potash prices.
"Mazepin is from Belarus and he has good connections there,
so it's probably in the interest of safe-guarding the
relationship with Belarus that he was given the chance to buy
the stake. There was no shortage of rumored buyers," said Bruce
Bower, a partner at Moscow hedge fund Verno Capital.
Shares in Uralkali outperformed the broader market to rise
2.5 percent by 1620 GMT after Uralchem, in which Russia-based
Mazepin owns a 95.2 percent stake, announced the acquisition.
Last month, Russian tycoon-turned-politician Mikhail
Prokhorov bought a 21.75 percent stake in Uralkali from
businessman Suleiman Kerimov, and sources familiar with the
matter said the move was done to ease tensions with Minsk.
"By having a fairly well connected Russian (Prokhorov) and
Mazepin, it heals the relationship between Russia and Belarus on
a political level," Bower said.
Uralchem said on Monday the purchase was a strategic
investment. It did not disclose the value of the deal.
"We believe in the fundamental attractiveness of the potash
market and appreciate the leadership position held by Uralkali,"
Mazepin said in the statement.
The deal, which Uralchem said would be completed soon,
involves the acquisition of Uralkali stakes belonging to
businessmen Filaret Galchev and Anatoly Skurov, who own 7
percent and 4.8 percent, respectively.
Uralchem did not say from where it would get the other 8
percent to reach a 20 percent stake.
Uralkali, which holds around 12 percent of its own shares,
acknowledged Uralchem's statement but said it was not party to
share sale and purchase arrangements.
The change in shareholders does not necessarily mean the
miner will return to a sales agreement with Belarus, said sector
analyst Boris Krasnojenov, of Renaissance Capital in Moscow.
"One scenario is that the cartel structure is broken and
potash prices are going to remain under pressure and the most
efficient producers, like Uralkali, are going to be used at 100
percent capacity," Krasnojenov said.
Another possibility is for Uralkali to reach an agreement
with North American potash trading consortium Canpotex or
another large producer, he added.
Also on Monday, fertiliser maker Acron said it had
cut its stake in Uralkali to 1.77 percent from 2.88 percent,
raising 5.5 billion roubles ($166 million).
(Reporting by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Megan Davies and