RusAl Sees Glencore As Russneft Partner

Billionaire Oleg Deripaska said he wanted to form a partnership with Glencore International, the world's largest commodity trader, to run Russneft, should he succeed in purchasing the crude producer.

The media-shy business mogul, with interests stretching from metals and oil to airports and cement, also said the West should stop fearing Russia.

"I see no political risks [after May 7]. Living in Russia makes me confident," he told reporters.

He said he was convinced that Vladimir Putin would remain fully in charge until 2020, even though he is stepping down as president May 7, and that the economy would expand 7 percent to 8 percent per year through that period.

"[President-elect Dmitry Medvedev's] role is important. But you need to understand — it's a big challenge to take responsibility. As I understand, Putin accepted this responsibility to develop 2020 goals," Deripaska, who spoke mostly in English, said Friday in comments that were embargoed for publication Sunday.

He also suggested that competitors were behind his U.S. visa difficulties and said he had dropped a project with General Motors to develop a car for the Russian market.

Deripaska, the country's richest man according to Forbes magazine, requested approval from the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service to buy Russneft last year through his holding company, Basic Element. He said permission from the service could take several more months.

Glencore, based in Switzerland, is seeking separate anti-monopoly approval to buy shares in production subsidiaries of Russneft, the company said in October. Deripaska's and Glencore's filings came weeks after Russian officials launched an international manhunt for Russneft's former chief executive and founder, Mikhail Gutseriyev, who is under investigation for tax evasion.

"Gutseriyev came to us and offered the company last summer," Deripaska said. "We never discussed Gutseriyev leaving Russia. I was not aware of any political pressure he was under."

Deripaska wants to use the oil company as the basis for a petrochemical venture with an unidentified foreign partner, he said in an interview earlier this month.

Russia, which has the world's third-largest currency reserves, has enough money supply for its industry to expand even as Western banks tighten lending, Deripaska said.

He also said his U.S. visa problems were due to competitors who gave false information to the government.

"The United States is the last country I would invest now. If the government is unreasonably pushing us out, why should we stay there and solve their problems?" he said.

He said plans with GM to develop a $10,000 budget car for Russia had been dropped, Vedomosti reported. High prices from Korean parts suppliers had made the project impossible, the newspaper said, citing an unidentified GAZ official.

n Handelsblatt newspaper reported Monday that Deripaska might have sold his 10 percent stake in German builder Hochtief to finance his purchase of a 25 percent stake in Norilsk Nickel.