Norilsk subsidiary starts open market purchases of Norilsk shares, ADS

Corbiere Holdings Limited, a subsidiary of Russia’s largest nickel maker Norilsk Nickel, which is conducting a $4.5 billion buyback program, has started open market purchases of Norilsk shares and American Depositary Shares worth up to $1.2 billion, Corbiere said on Tuesday.

“The open market purchases will be carried out as part of the shareholder value enhancement program of OJSC MMC Norilsk Nickel, approved by the board of directors of Norilsk Nickel on December 28, 2010, under which Norilsk Nickel may return cash to its shareholders, among others, by way of open market purchases,” Corbiere said in a statement.

Corbiere has engaged an independent broker to carry out open market purchases. The broker will buy Norilsk common shares on the MICEX and RTS markets and ADSs on the London Stock Exchange.

On Monday, Corbiere said it had completed a buyback from minority shareholders, having bought a total of 6.85% of Norilsk common stock for some $3.3 billion.

The buyback program was launched on January 27 and was to be completed on February 10, but Norilsk has said that a ruling by a court in the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis blocked the program following a suit from RusAl, the world’s largest aluminum producer and one of Norilsk’s core shareholders. RusAl said the program would distort the company’s structure.

On February 3, Corbiere suspended the program but renewed it after a Nevis court discharged its previous injunction on February 28.

RusAl, controlled by billionaire Oleg Deripaska, and Interros, the investment arm of another Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin, have long been at odds over control of Norilsk Nickel. RusAl says the Norilsk board is dominated by officials linked with Interros following a June annual general meeting, where RusAl lost one board seat, while Interros increased its representation.

RusAl said the money Norilsk wanted to spend on the buyback was wasted.

“Another buy-back that has been announced by Norilsk Nickel is an open use of the company’s cash in order to reinforce the positions of the alliance of the management and Interros,” it said in a statement. “Instead of investing in the company’s development, $4.5 billion will be used by the management of MMC (Norilsk Nickel) solely as an instrument of a corporate fight in order to ensure the interests of the management and one of the company’s shareholders.”

MOSCOW, April 5 (RIA Novosti)

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