(Releads with analyst comment, adds details, background, Norilsk quote, Polyus statement, share price)
MOSCOW, March 11 (Reuters) - Russia's metals giant Norilsk Nickel GMKN.MMNKELyq.L offered on Tuesday to sell its 1 percent in Russia's No.1 gold miner Polyus Gold PLZL.MMPLZLq.L, which an analyst said may help an owner win control.
“As a part of its ongoing efforts to dispose of non-core assets, Norilsk Nickel announces that its subsidiary has initiated the sale of 1,920,826 ordinary shares in Polyus Gold... to certain institutional investors,” Norilsk said.
Russian tycoons Vladimir Potanin and Mikhail Prokhorov, who each own large stakes in Polyus and Norilsk, are in a complicated process of dividing their assets.
Potanin’s representatives do not have a majority on Polyus’ board and in February his invesment vehicle demanded an extraordinary shareholders meeting to elect a new board comprising at least three independent directors.
The buyer of the stake will be able to vote at the meeting scheduled for April 7, the Norilsk statement said.
An analyst suggested that the sale could allow Potanin to win control over the firm.
“The volume of the stakes belonging to the two (Prokhorov and Potanin) differ so little, so an extra percent may prove important,” Troika Dialog metals analyst Mikhail Stiskin said.
Norilsk board decided to dispose of the shares in November 2007, the Norilsk statement said. UBS investment bank has been appointed financial adviser and agent to the deal.
Norilsk insisted that it had given the true reason for the stake’s sale in its statement.
“It so historically happened that these shares belonged to one of Norilsk’s subsidiaries,” Dmitry Usanov, Norilsk’s investor relations head, told Reuters.
“As it is a non-core asset, Norilsk decided to dispose of it.”
Usanov declined to name potential buyers.
“This transaction implies competition. The stock will be sold to those who offer a better price,” he said.
The deadline for bids was set for March 18, the statement said.
In a separate statement on Tuesday, Polyus said its board had recommended the shareholders to vote against the board re-election.
At 1600 GMT, Polyus shares were up 2.79 percent at 1,312 roubles ($55.01) each in Moscow and up 2.3 percent in London at $54.9 per share after the announcement. (Reporting by Aleksandras Budrys, Editing by Peter Blackburn)
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