Uralchem shareholders to buy 20 percent of Russia's Uralkali

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Shareholders in Russian fertilizer company Uralchem, controlled by billionaire Dmitry Mazepin, are buying a 20 percent stake in world No.1 potash producer Uralkali URKA.MM, Uralchem said on Monday.

A view of the Uralkali main office in the city of Berezniki in the Perm region close to Russia's Ural mountains August 27, 2013. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

The deal, worth about $2.9 billion based on Uralkali’s closing share price on Friday, is the latest ownership rejig at the Russian potash producer since it quit a sales alliance with Belarus, sparking fury in the neighboring country and hitting global potash prices.

Last month, tycoon-turned-politician Mikhail Prokhorov bought a 21.75 percent stake in Uralkali from businessman Suleiman Kerimov in a move which sources familiar with the matter said was part of a drive by Russia to ease tensions with Belarus.

“We believe in the fundamental attractiveness of the potash market and appreciate the leadership position held by Uralkali in this market,” Mazepin said in Uralchem’s statement.

Sources had previously said Mazepin was interested in acquiring a stake in Uralkali, but on Monday Uralchem did not specify the identities of its shareholders making the acquisition, nor the value of the deal.

It said the purchase was a strategic investment, without elaborating.

The deal, which Uralchem said would be completed soon, involves the acquisition of Uralkali stakes belonging to businessmen Filaret Galchev and Anatoly Skurov, who own 7 percent and 4.8 percent respectively.

Uralkali, which holds around 12 percent of its shares in treasury, declined to comment.

Shares in Uralkali were trading up 0.5 percent at 1155 GMT, outperforming the broader Moscow index.

Also on Monday, fertilizer maker Acron AKRN.MM said it had cut its stake in Uralkali to 1.77 percent from 2.88 percent, raising 5.5 billion roubles ($166 million).

Reporting by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Megan Davies and Mark Potter