November 18, 2013 / 8:00 AM / 4 years ago

Russia's Prokhorov agrees to buy Kerimov stake in Uralkali

Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov speaks during a news conference, dedicated to addressing issues in the upcoming Moscow mayoral elections, in Moscow June 13, 2013.Sergei Karpukhin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov agreed on Monday to buy Suleiman Kerimov's 21.75 percent stake in Uralkali (URKA.MM), the world's largest potash miner, to try to calm tensions over the collapse of a sales cartel.

Prokhorov's investment firm, Onexim, said it would complete the deal shortly but did not disclose terms of the transaction. Uralkali pulled out of a Russo-Belarussian sales pact in July that sent potash prices reeling.

"The purchase of the stake in Uralkali is a long-term investment in a company that is unique from the standpoint of its position in its industry and its role in the world economy," Onexim CEO Dmitry Razumov said.

Prokhorov is a long-time former business partner of Kerimov who has launched a political career. He ran against President Vladimir Putin in last year's presidential election but remains a leading establishment figure.

Talks continue, sources said, on the possible sale of the stakes in Uralkali held by Kerimov's partners. Filaret Galtchev owns 7 percent of Uralkali and Anatoly Skurov 4.8 percent, bringing their combined interest to just over a third.

Sources on both sides of the talks said Kerimov's asking price was based on a $20 billion equity valuation but the final price was flexible and would probably be slightly lower.

Along with Prokhorov, businessman Dmitry Mazepin, co-owner of fertilizers producer Uralchem, and Russian state arms-to-technology group Rostec are interested in buying into Uralkali, three sources said.

Asked whether the Kremlin has granted green light to a deal to sell an Uralkali stake, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov: "This is totally a business issue and one doesn't need (to get) approval from the Kremlin."

Russian state company Rostec does not plan to buy Uralkali, a Rostec representative said.

Reporting by Polina Devitt, Darya Korsunskaya, Alexei Anishchuk, Gleb Stolyarov and Douglas Busvine, editing by Elizabeth Piper

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