* Uralkali shareholder says Belaruskali merger “complicated”
* Tie-up would have created biggest potash producer
* No plans to increase stake in Greece’s Piraeus - Nesis
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By Clara Ferreira-Marques
LONDON, June 23 (Reuters) - A takeover by Uralkali of Belarussian potash mining partner Belaruskali is too complex and unlikely to happen, Uralkali shareholder Alexander Nesis said, dampening hopes of a deal to create a sector giant.
“It is so complicated I don’t believe it can happen,” Nesis told Reuters. Nesis held 17.5 percent in Uralkali before a merger this month with rival Silvinit and holds around 12 percent in the newly combined group, now Russia’s largest potash miner, he said.
Russia’s Uralkali, controlled by Nesis business associate Suleiman Kerimov, is considered to be the most likely buyer of Belaruskali if Belarus is forced to sell its most prized asset to ease its currency and economic crisis.
Earlier this month, Belarus agreed to sell off $7.5 billion in state assets within the next three years as part of a deal to obtain $3 billion from a Russian-led bailout fund. The agreement did not require the privatisation of any specific firms.
A tie-up between Belaruskali and Uralkali would create the world’s biggest producer of potash — an ingredient of fertiliser used in farming — well ahead of Canada’s Potash Corp .
Both companies are partners in export vehicle Belarussian Potash Corp, so the move would primarily add scale and influence to the Russian business as opposed to venturing into territory owned by competitors such as Potash Corp.
A major shareholder said earlier this week that the two sides were not in talks.
Nesis also said his ICT investment group had no plans to increase its just under 5 percent stake in Greece’s Piraeus Bank (BOPr.AT), a company whose shares have been hit hard by that country’s financial crisis.
“Not for now,” he said of the stake, made public earlier this month.
Nesis said he was interested in the bank’s technology and had spotted potential despite Greek sovereign risk, but was happy with his current holding.
ICT is also an investor in Russian miner Polymetal and newly floated Nomos Bank NMOSq.L.
It also owns a railcar business that Nesis said he expected to list in 2014, cashing in on increasing volumes of rail freight. The rail factory will produce 13,000 freight cars a year, he said. (Writing by John Bowker, Editing by Maria Kiselyova and David Holmes)