March 13, 2019 / 3:12 PM / 6 months ago

Abramovich trims Nornickel stake in $551 million share sale

FILE PHOTO: Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich arrives for the Champion's League semi-final second leg soccer match against Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge in London April 30, 2014. REUTERS/Toby Melville

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich sold $551 million worth of shares in mining giant Norilsk Nickel on Tuesday during an accelerated bookbuilding deal (ABB), the deal’s arranger VTB Capital said.

The shares, accounting for a 1.7 percent stake in the world’s largest palladium producer, were bought predominantly by British-based investors, with Russian investors also buying a third of the shares, Dmitry Bolyasnikov, executive director of equity capital markets at VTB Capital, said on Wednesday.

Prior to the sale Abramovich, who owns England’s Chelsea soccer club, and his partners had a 6.3 percent stake in Nornickel, according to the latest information, including 4.2 percent owned via Abramovich’s Cyprus-based company Crispian. Norilsk Nickel’s biggest shareholders - Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin and aluminum giant Rusal - were blocked from buying shares from Abramovich, the bookrunner said.

Potanin was banned from buying shares in Norilsk Nickel by a London court last June.

The size of Tuesday’s stake sale was increased to 1.7 percent, or 2.7 million shares, from 1.25 percent due to strong demand, Bolyasnikov said. Crispian set the sale price at between 13,450 rubles per share and the shares’ market price, the bookrunner said.

Norilsk Nickel shares were trading at 13,812 rubles on Wednesday, down 4 percent on the day.

The court case was part of a long-running battle between Potanin and Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska, who was the target of U.S. sanctions last year, along with his firms Rusal and En+.

In November, Potanin launched an appeal against the decision, which was deemed to be in Deripaska’s favor. Tuesday’s sale was arranged by Credit Suisse, Citi, and VTB Capital, the bookrunner said.

As well as being the top palladium producer, Nornickel competes with Brazil’s Vale for the rank of the world’s No. 1 nickel producer.

Reporting by Olga Popova; Writing by Polina Nikolskaya and Polina Ivanova; Editing by Susan Fenton

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