The latest twist in the scrap amongst the oligarchs that own the world's biggest aluminium producer, Rusal, saw Viktor Vekselberg's Sual Partners file a lawsuit against the company in London over contracts with another shareholder, Glencore, sources claimed on April 5. The move draws the battle lines in the Rusal boardroom even more clearly, but is unlikely to move the war forwards.
Sual Partners' suit, due to be heard in the London Court of International Arbitration, claims that a $47bn contract with Glencore, which foresees the global commodities trader selling up to 50% of Rusal's aluminium over the next six years, was signed against the wishes of Rusal minorities, which include Sual and Mikhail Prokhorov's Onexim. The court action is being brought against Rusal, Glencore and Oleg Deripaska, as well as his holding company En+, through which he holds the core stake of 47.4% in Rusal.
The suit claims that the contract is in contravention of a shareholders agreement, and that the contract is disadvantageous to Rusal. However, the full terms of the contract, which is said to have been signed in December, have not been disclosed, reports RIA Novosti. According to unnamed sources, the legal case seeks to terminate the contracts, declare them invalid, and recover damages.
The suit is just the latest episode in a building dispute between the two minority oligarchs and Deripaska. Vekselberg resigned as CEO of Rusal abruptly in March 2012, expressing unhappiness with Deripaska's actions, including the Glencore contract.
However, the real the heart of the dispute is Deripaska's long-winded fight with another oligarch - Vladimir Potatnin - over another metals giant Norilsk Nickel. Vekselberg and Prokhorov were reported to be unhappy when Derispaska refused an offer from Potanin to buy 20% out of Rusal's 25% Norilsk stake for $12.8bn. The minority shareholders were said to be keen to accept with the highly leveraged Rusal struggling under a heavy debt burden.
However, with the help of Glencore, which holds 8% in Rusal, Deripaska resisted. He hit back in late March with an offer from En+ to Rusal to buy the entire Norilsk stake for $9bn. Accepting an offer with no premium to the market, after seeing a 40% premium turned down a matter of months ago, would clearly stick in Vekselburg and Prokhorov's throats.
Hence, the fight continues. "The contracts were signed as a result of ... a conspiracy and violation of the veto right which belongs to Sual Partners under the shareholders agreement and it was publicly acknowledged by Mr. Deripaska," a source close to Vekselberg told RIA Novosti. "Sual Partners seek to terminate the contracts' force, declare them invalid and recover damages," he added.
"The lawsuit is further escalation of the shareholder conflict, though we do not think it will have material ramifications for the company's day-to-day operations," suggest analysts at Troika Dialog. "We see a serious difference of opinion between Deripaska and Vekselberg, and do not expect a quick settlement. We also posit that Victor Vekselberg should be willing to monetize his stake, but the share price is apparently unacceptably low right now."
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