Vekselberg Spells Out RusAl Plans

LONDON — United Company RusAl and Norilsk Nickel should pool their assets to take on global giants like BHP Billiton, RusAl chairman Viktor Vekselberg said in an interview Friday.

"The issue of uniting RusAl and Norilsk Nickel has been discussed for a long time," said Vekselberg, a major RusAl shareholder. "For the Russian economy and for the world economy … a new player which could compete with leaders like BHP Billiton is very important."

On Thursday, RusAl closed the acquisition of a strategic stake in Norilsk Nickel from a core shareholder, fellow billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov.

RusAl, which delayed a long-planned IPO last year, will make the placement by the end of next year and use its public status as a "launch pad," paying for new acquisitions with shares, he said.

Further integration with Norilsk was not a precondition for the public offering, he said.

Norilsk is in talks about a merger with Metalloinvest, an iron ore and steel firm founded by Alisher Usmanov, an Uzbek-born billionaire and shareholder in London's Arsenal football club.

Vekselberg, who said RusAl's founding aim was to build a diversified company, said he would consider allowing Metalloinvest to join the party, increasing the heft of a combined operation and broadening its range of products.

"I don't see any major reasons why we couldn't agree, except the traditional ones — the price, the corporate structure and strategic vision."