Russian billionaire Potanin buys 2% of Nornickel from Abramovich

Sign at Nornickel HQ. (Image courtesy of the Nornickel Facebook page)

MOSCOW, March 15 (Reuters) – Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin’s Interros Holding said it had completed the purchase from businessman Roman Abramovich of a 2 percent stake in Norilsk Nickel, which has been the subject of a legal battle.

Abramovich struck a provisional deal last week that allowed him to sell a 4 percent stake in Norilsk to fellow shareholders Potanin and aluminium producer Rusal, pending the outcome of a London court case.

Rusal is trying to stop Abramovich from selling Nornickel shares, arguing that would violate a 2012 shareholder agreement. The share purchase by Interros could yet be revoked if the court, which is expected to make a decision in May, rules in favour of Rusal.

The dispute is part of a long-running battle for control of Nornickel, a $30 billion company that competes with Brazil’s Vale for the rank of the world’s top nickel producer. It is also the world’s largest palladium producer.

Interros said in statement that it had bought a 2.1 percent stake from Abramovich, increasing its holding in the miner to 32.9 percent.

The purchase was made at a price of $234 per share, as set out in Potanin’s initial offer to buy a stake from Abramovich in early February.

Nornickel’s Moscow-listed shares were down 1 percent at 10,775 roubles ($189) per share on Thursday, underperforming a broader MICEX index which was stable.

It was unclear whether Rusal planned to buy the remaining 2 percent stake on offer from Abramovich.

Asked about its intentions on Thursday, Rusal told Reuters that it “is considering its options in light of ongoing litigation”. Controlled by billionaire Oleg Deripaska, Rusal holds 27.8 percent in Nornickel.

According to the arrangement between the three parties reached in the London court last week, any transfer of this 4 percent stake by Abramovich would be reversed if the court rules in favour of Rusal in the dispute.

($1 = 57.0670 roubles)

(Reporting by Polina Devitt; editing by Polina Ivanova and Susan Fenton)