Abramovich trims Nornickel stake in $551m share sale

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 football 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 aluminium 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 roubles per share and the shares’ market price, the bookrunner said.

Norilsk Nickel shares were trading at 13,812 roubles 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 favour.

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.

(By Olga Popova, Polina Nikolskaya and Polina Ivanova; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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