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8 Oct, 2010 07:25

Compromise room shrinks as Norilsk EGM draws closer

The future of Russia's largest mining company is to be decided in an extraordinary general meeting being held in 2 weeks resolving a drawn out dispute between key Norilsk shareholders.

The EGM comes in the wake of fallout from the June AGM. That saw Interros, with a 25% stake, have four representatives voted onto the Board, whilst Rusal with a slightly larger stake, managed to get only 3. Rusal says that broke an agreement to have equal representation on the board.

Since then there have been claims of voting irregularities, legal action and proposals from both sides to buy the other out. Rusal supporters say Norilsk management is too close to Interros.

Artyom Volynets First Deputy CEO, EN+, and Rusal Board Member, says that if Norilsk management fails to decide on new investments then shareholders should get the money back.

“If you can't invest into new projects you need to return money to the shareholders. There is no reason for the management to enjoy the big cash pile that sits on the Norilsk balance sheet that has to be returned to the shareholders so they can invest into new project themselves, if the management is not able to do it. So, very simple – corporate governance and professional management – that is what we stand for. And we do believe that we can increase the value of the company from current $30 billion to $60 billion dollars, at least twice for the next 18 month.”

Norilsk denies its involved boardroom games. The company needs the money to restart key operations which were put on hold by the global downturn according to Norilsk Nickel General Director, Vladimir Strzhalkovsky.

“We are working to re-start mines in Australia and we carry out final calculation works for that, the final decision is not made yet, but we are quite sure we will re-start some mines.”

Interros and Rusal put aside their differences in the depths of the global financial crisis.
But metals prices are rising again – generating attractive cash flows. Something that heavy-debt Rusal could certainly use.