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Russia's RUSAL slams Potanin for $600 mln sale

MOSCOW, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Russia's United Company RUSAL lashed out at billionaire Vladimir Potanin on Tuesday for selling $600 million in assets to a unit of mining giant Norilsk Nickel GMKN.MM.

Potanin and UC RUSAL both hold large stakes in Norilsk, and are embroiled in an complex corporate dispute.

The dispute took a new turn on Monday when Norilsk's electricity generator, OGK-3 OGKC.MM, said it had bought 25 percent of energy company RUSIA Petroleum and some smaller assets for more than $600 million.

In a statement released on Tuesday, UC RUSAL, which owns 25 percent of Norilsk, said Potanin’s decision to sell these assets constituted a breach of corporate governance standards, as he did not first consult with any minority shareholders.

“Vladimir Potanin and (his holding company) Interros are using their hold over Norilsk Nickel and OGK-3 ... to further their own interests, without considering the tough situation on financial markets and the importance for the company to maintain its liquidity,” RUSAL said.

Potanin, who as of May 26 owned 29.8 percent of Norilsk, has regularly denied all allegations by RUSAL. Interros was not available for comment.

A spokeswoman for RUSAL, the world’s largest aluminium producer, said the company was not yet considering legal action against Potanin over the matter.

OGK-3 has not said how it or Norilsk would pay for the assets at a time when Russian companies are facing an unprecedented liquidity squeeze amid the virtual closure of world capital markets.

Norilsk is at a centre of a dispute between some of Russia’s richest men including Potanin and Oleg Deripaska, a top RUSAL shareholder.

RUSAL bought its Norilsk stake earlier this year and has since then accused Potanin of mismanaging the company and taking effective control of Norilsk, the world’s largest nickel and palladium miner.

The RUSAL statement said Potanin’s move could threaten OGK-3’s growth plans, which it needs to realise to keep pace with growing demand for electricity. (Reporting by Simon Shuster, editing by Richard Chang)

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