RusAl-Norilsk Merger Could Be Approved

The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service "isn't against" a combination of United Company RusAl and Norilsk Nickel, the country's biggest metals producers, one of its officials said Monday.

The government would insist on the creation of a base-metals exchange in Russia in the event of a merger or takeover, Alexei Ulyanov, head of industrial supervision at the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service, said at a conference on Monday.

Until a bourse is created, the service will probably require the combined company to sell metals in Russia at no more than a 1 to 3 percent premium to prices on the London Metal Exchange, Ulyanov said.

RusAl says it plans to take over Norilsk, the world's largest producer of nickel. The combination would challenge the world's top five metals and mining companies, led by Australia's BHP Billiton.

RusAl, the world's largest aluminum producer by capacity, is completing the purchase of a 25 percent stake from billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. RusAl received anti-monopoly approval Jan. 31 to buy 29 percent of Norilsk, all shares being held by Prokhorov. RusAl asked majority investor Vladimir Potanin to sell his stake in Norilsk, Vedomosti reported Jan. 22.