Potanin, Usmanov Agree On Norilsk Partnership

Billionaires Vladimir Potanin and Alisher Usmanov agreed Wednesday to create a company that will be a "global mining leader" and invited United Company RusAl owner Oleg Deripaska's Basic Element to join them as a partner.

Potanin's holding company Interros and Usmanov's Gallagher said Usmanov would buy up to 10 percent in Norilsk Nickel, in which Potanin holds 30 percent.

Interros will in turn buy a stake of up to 25 percent plus one share in Metalloinvest, controlled by Usmanov.

On Wednesday, Potanin and Usmanov said they wanted to create a global leader in the sector in the next five years with investments estimated at $50 billion to $60 billion, including a potential bid for the Udokan copper field.

The statement came only hours after a statement from Norilsk that it had suspended merger talks with Metalloinvest because the latter plans an IPO.

The developments are the latest twist in a struggle for control of Norilsk after long-term business duo Potanin and Mikhail Prokhorov decided to split their assets.

Prokhorov sold 25 percent plus two shares in Norilsk to RusAl, controlled by Deripaska, in April.

But Potanin, who is believed to be keen to avoid a full takeover by RusAl, started merger talks with Metalloinvest, believed to be one of the closest businessmen to President Dmitry Medvedev.

"Considering clear advantages of consolidating assets in the mining and metals sector, Interros and Gallagher agreed to invite BasEl to become a partner in creating a global mining and metals company," the statement said.