* Mechel buys 22 percent of Pacific port for $152 million
* Vanino is port of choice for sending its goods to Asia
* Mechel had bought then sold controlling stake in December (Adds detail)
MOSCOW, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Debt-laden Mechel said on Thursday it bought nearly 22 percent of the Pacific port of Vanino, helping to ensure the Russian mining and steel company has access to its preferred export route to Asia.
Securing export routes can be crucial in Russia. Two weeks ago, in a sign of shifting alliances, Souz Petrolium lost its access to a vital pipeline, the second trader with ties to Russian tycoons to be barred from a long-standing route.
Mechel said the stake was bought for 4.57 billion roubles ($152 million) by its subsidiary, Mecheltrans, from a unit of industrial giant En+, controlled by billionaire Oleg Deripaska.
A Mechel spokesman declined to give further details.
In December Mechel won 55 percent of the port by offering the highest bid of 15.5 billion roubles in a tender, paying ten times its initial offer.
It sold the bulk of the stake this month to unnamed Russian and foreign investors, retaining some 1.5 percent “in line with the conditions for the financing of the acquisition”. Mechel said its recent deal will be funded by the investors who financed its purchase of the controlling stake in December.
Several Russian government officials have said the deals were in line with the law.
Kommersant business daily said this week that under the deal En+ would retain the right to export its cargoes, mainly alumna and aluminium, from Vanino.
Russia has opened or expanded a number of ports on its easternmost coast in the last few years including Vanino and Mechel’s Posyet, both near the regional capital of Vladivostok. ($1 = 30.0450 Russian roubles) (Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Louise Ireland)