MOSCOW The chairman of Russia's Uralkali (URKA.MM), the world's top potash producer, said he did not rule out future cooperation with its Belarusian peer despite authorities in Minsk having arrested Uralkali's CEO.
Vladislav Baumgertner was detained on August 26 while visiting Belarus at the invitation of its prime minister, adding a diplomatic dimension to a trade dispute sparked some four weeks earlier when Uralkali quit an alliance with Belarus state potash producer Belaruskali.
Uralkali has estimated the collapse of what was the world's largest potash alliance could push potash prices down 25 percent in the second half of 2013. That in turn could have a major impact on the economy of Belarus, where the soil nutrient accounts for 12 percent of state revenue.
Uralkali main aim was to get the CEO released, chairman Alexander Voloshin told the Interfax news agency on Wednesday.
Asked if cooperation could be resumed, Voloshin added: "Nothing is impossible, but it is probably not the best time to discuss it now."
Shares in German potash miner K+S (SDFGn.DE) rose after Voloshin's comments, which led to speculation a new cartel might be formed. They were up 2.1 percent by 8:53 a.m. EDT.
In Moscow, Uralkali shares were up 1.2 percent outperforming a 0.1-percent fall in the Micex share index
Cooperation between the firms was unlikely in the foreseeable future as the conflict has gone too far, but in theory a resumption could not be ruled out, said Boris Krasnojenov, an analyst from Renaissance Capital.
Baumgertner is in custody and due to stand trial charged with abuse of power.
Uralkali has in turn accused Belarus of political persecution while Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov described the CEO's detention as inappropriate.
(Reporting by Polina Devitt and Victoria Andreeva; Editing by John Stonestreet)