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22 Feb, 2008 15:23

Russian metals super-giant on its way?

Metalloinvest, the mining and steel group that belongs to Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, may merge with metals giant Norilsk Nickel.

Metalloinvest, the group that manages assets of Usmanov’s Gazmetall, says it values itself at $US 30 billion. Its potential takeover target, Russia’s largest nickel producer Norilsk Nickel, has capitalisation of almost twice as much.

The deal would create one of the world’s largest metal groups, capable of challenging global leaders.

Norilsk Nickel is blighted by the  bitter rift between its two co-owners, Mikhail Prokhorov and Vladimir Potanin.

Prokhorov has agreed to sell a 25% plus 1 share stake to Oleg Deripaska’s Rusal, which was quick to say it would be interested in eventually buying the rest of the company.

Potanin argues Rusal’s offer undervalues the company, selling minority shareholders short.

Meanwhile, a three-way deal between Metalloinvest, Rusal and Norilsk Nickel is also possible, Metalloinvest Director Maksim Gubiev told Reuters. Analysts say a consensus between Norilsk Nickel shareholders is a prerequisite to any deals.

“I believe that first of all there should be an agreement – an amicable agreement between the two major Norilsk Nickel shareholders,” said Yury Vlasov, a Renaissance Capital analyst.

Last year Metalloinvest was in talks of a merger with the Ukrainian firm Industrial Union of Donbass.