Potanin’s Interros calls Rusal claims about Nornickel asset sales ‘unfounded’

Vladimir Potanin’s Interros is one of Nornickel’s two main shareholders. (Image by Nornickel).

Interros, Nornickel’s largest shareholder, on Monday called allegations by fellow shareholder Rusal about undervalued asset sales unfounded, the latest step in a long-running dispute between two of Russia’s biggest metals firms.

Rusal has alleged that the sale of some business units, including a logistics operator and Nordstar airlines, led to losses for Nornickel shareholders and that the assets were deliberately sold at undervalued prices to avoid deeper shareholder scrutiny, the Vedomosti daily reported on Monday, citing court materials.

Nornickel is the world’s largest palladium producer and a major miner of refined nickel. CEO Vladimir Potanin holds a 37% stake in Nornickel through his Interros holding company, while Rusal holds 26.4% and former Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich has a 4% stake.

Rusal is suing Potanin in London, claiming that he violated a shareholder agreement signed in December 2012, causing losses for shareholders including Rusal. Roman Abramovich and his firm Crispian Investments Ltd were subsequently added as defendants in the case.

The shareholder agreement, which had protected Nornickel’s dividend payouts, expired at the end of 2022. Disagreements over dividends and governance have been the main reason for on-and-off rows between the two companies over the years.

“Interros believes Rusal’s claims are unfounded,” Interros said on Telegram. “For all these transactions, Nornickel’s management submitted the results of checks to the board of director’s audit committee, which did not reveal any violations or damage to the company.

“We believe that Rusal’s actions are aimed at increasing sanctions risks for Nornickel.”

A Rusal spokesperson, cited by Vedomosti, said that though Nornickel was not involved in the dispute and was not a party to the case, the lawsuit was in the best interests of Nornickel and its minority shareholders.

(By Anastasia Lyrchikova and Alexander Marrow; Editing by Barbara Lewis)

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