Russia's RUSAL, Norilsk discuss full merger -paper

MOSCOW, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Russia's United Company RUSAL, which is buying a strategic stake in metals major Norilsk Nickel GMKN.MM, is discussing a full buyout or a merger, one of RUSAL's shareholders told a newspaper on Tuesday.

Billionaire Viktor Vekselberg told Vedomosti business daily RUSAL was in talks with Vladimir Potanin, who owns over 25 percent in Norilsk, after having already agreed with Mikhail Prokhorov to buy his 29 percent stake in Norilsk in exchange for 11 percent in RUSAL and an undisclosed cash sum.

“I met Volodya (Vladimir Potanin) before the New Year. Volodya in general believes that such a merger would make sense but there are many details we need to discuss and understand to see how such a big deal can be structured,” Vekselberg said.

“Sooner or later we and Potanin will reach agreement,” he added.

Potanin’s press service was not immediately available for comments. The newspaper quoted the press service as saying Potanin is not discussing any merger ideas.

In December, Potanin declined to exercise his right of first refusal to buy Prokhorov’s stake in Norilsk for $15.7 billion, opening the way for RUSAL to buy it. Prokhorov’s sale is part of a complicated divorce process between the two businessman.

RUSAL has applied for regulatory approval in seven countries and expects the deal to close in the first quarter.

Norilsk, which has a market value of $46 billion, mines a fifth of the world’s nickel and more than half of its palladium.

RUSAL, valued at around $30 billion by investment banks advising on a possible stock market float, accounts for 12 percent of world aluminium output and 15 percent of alumina.

RUSAL is 66 percent controlled by businessman Oleg Deripaska, while 22 percent belongs to the former shareholders of aluminium company Sual, including Vekselberg. Some 12 percent belongs to Swiss-based trading house Glencore. (Reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Quentin Bryar)