Russia's Vekselberg says will not divest Swiss firms

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - A Russian tycoon facing a hefty fine for violating Swiss disclosure rules said the action will chill the investment climate in the Alpine nation and he will not divest his two Swiss firms.

Swiss regulators fined Victor Vekselberg a record 40 million Swiss francs ($38.17 million) for violating disclosure rules when he built up his stake in Swiss industrial group Oerlikon OERL.VX, his investment vehicle Renova said.

“I think this is a misunderstanding that will be resolved either in court or through an out of court settlement,” Vekselberg told Reuters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum. He said he will not have to pay the fine.

Swiss authorities are also looking into whether Vekselberg violated disclosure rules when he amassed his controlling stake in Swiss engineering group Sulzer SUN.S by not registering his stakes when crossing certain thresholds.

A source familiar with the case said a fine could be as high as 2 billion francs.

“Under no circumstances will we take a decision to stop our activities related to our projects in Oerlikon and Sulzer, we believe in these assets,” said Vekselberg, who is a shareholder in several firms in oil, mining and utilities sectors.

Vekselberg said the two firms were strategic investments which allowed Renova to achieve synergies through access to technologies held by the Swiss firms.

The Russian government had encouraged the businessmen to make acquisitions in technology sectors in developed countries in order to gain access to modern know-how and help diversify the oil-focused Russian economy.

“I think this situation will not have a positive impact on how the Swiss investment climate is viewed,” Vekselberg said, who is one of the biggest Russian investors in developed countries.

“It is a negative signal not only to us but also to the whole business community which saw an unpredictability of the Swiss authorities in solving such issues,” Vekselberg said.

Vekselberg is one of the Russia-connected billionaire shareholders in the oil firm TNK-BP whose standoff with major BP BP.L over the control of the firm in 2008 had raised questions about investment climate in Russia.

Vekselberg is also a board chairman in aluminum giant UC RUSAL 0486.HK, which has just completed an initial public offering at the Hong Kong stock exchange.

($1=1.048 Swiss Franc)

Editing by Hans Peters