January 15, 2018 / 10:13 AM / a year ago

Russian gold miner Polyus says Fosun stake deal scrapped

MOSCOW/HONG KONG (Reuters) - Russia’s largest gold miner Polyus (PLZL.MM) said on Monday that plans to sell a 10 percent stake to a consortium led by China’s Fosun International (0656.HK) had been dropped after one of the conditions of the agreement was not met.

FILE PHOTO - A melter casts an ingot of 92.96 percent pure gold at a procession plant of the Olimpiada gold operation, owned by Polyus Gold International company, in Krasnoyarsk region, Eastern Siberia, Russia, June 30, 2015. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin/File Photo

Russia, the world’s third largest gold producer, had beenlooking for investments from Asian countries, including China, since sanctions were imposed on Moscow by the West over its actions in Ukraine.

The Fosun-led consortium had been in talks since 2016 to buy a large minority stake in Polyus, which is controlled by the family of Russian tycoon Suleiman Kerimov. Kerimov was arrested as part of a tax evasion case in France late last year.

Shares in the Russian gold producer fell 3.6 percent to a five-month low after news the $887 million deal had fallen through, leaving the company the worst performer on Russia’sMOEX index .MCX.

“After the condition precedent was not satisfied, the parties discussed further options but did not reach a consensus, following which Polyus Gold International Limited proposed to terminate the agreement,” Polyus said in its statement.

“The parties agreed to terminate the agreement, including the option for the consortium to acquire an additional 5 percent of the company’s share capital pursuant to the agreement,” the company said.

Polyus declined further comment.

According to one source with knowledge of the matter, the decision, made jointly by the companies, was due in part to Kerimov’s arrest as this cast uncertainty over Polyus’s prospects and sent the company’s share price down.

GOLD TO BLAME

The deal for the Fosun-led consortium to buy 12,561,868ordinary shares was signed in May 2017 and later delayed until February this year.

Polyus delisted from the London Stock Exchange in 2015, but it returned to London in June last year, buoyed by a rise in global gold prices XAU= and news of the Fosun-led deal.

Another source familiar with the deal said that Polyus’ interest in the Fosun deal has faded after the London listing and especially as the gold price was on the rise, pushing the company’s value higher.

“Initially, this was a good deal but something went wrong... After (the) IPO Polyus’ interest has faded but there are multiple reasons... (I think) Kerimov – is the last thing to blame,” the source said.

Global gold prices stood at around $1,339.7 per ounce onMonday, up from about $1,268 on May 31 when the deal was announced.

The Chinese deal had valued Polyus at $70.6 per share, which was at the upper end of the price range for its share offer inJune. Polyus shares closed at 4,382 roubles ($77.79) per sharein Moscow on Monday.

Polyus is set to increase its dominance as Russia’s largest gold producer towards the end of this decade as its Natalka gold deposit in the country’s far east is increasing its capacity.

Fosun’s interest in the Russian gold miner came when a number of Chinese companies were targeting gold mine acquisitions to build on domestic demand amid the global recovery in prices.

China, the world’s top consumer, producer and importer of gold, has ambitions to be a global price setter.

It was to be the Chinese group’s first Russian deal. Fosun, one of China’s most prolific dealmakers headed by billionaire Guo Guangchang, had already set up two subsidiary companies, Fosun Management (Russia) and Fosun Eurasia Capital, with theaim of building its asset management business in Russia and neighbouring regions, according to the company’s website.

The Shanghai-based conglomerate is best known outside China for its portfolio of businesses including French resort chainClub Med, margarine maker St Hubert and Portugal’s largest listed bank Millennium (BCP.LS).

The collapse of the Polyus deal marks a setback for Fosun, which along with other Chinese conglomerates such as DalianWanda and HNA Group has dialled back on some ambitions abroad after Beijing stepped up scrutiny of outbound dealmaking, notably in sectors such as property, hotels and entertainment.

Fosun has already pared back its foreign real estate portfolio. It sold off a Sydney office tower for A$142.5 million($109 million) this week and is also selling Lloyds Chambers inLondon.($1 = 56.3302 roubles)

(Corrects dateline to MOSCOW/HONG KONG from MOSCOW/BEIJING)

Additional reporting by Olga Popova and Andrey Kuzmin in MOSCOW; Editing by Katya Golubkova, Mark Potter and Jane Merriman

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