Norilsk Fall Tied to Sale Speculation

Norilsk Nickel fell the most in at least 19 months in Moscow trading on speculation that billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov's plan to sell a stake would prolong a dispute over the control of the miner.

Norilsk plummeted as much as 12 percent, before paring some of the losses. Prokhorov offered Tuesday to sell 17 percent of Norilsk to Vladimir Potanin in a cash and asset swap worth $10 billion.

Prokhorov's offer "raises more questions than answers," Mikhail Stiskin, an analyst at Troika Dialog, wrote in a note. "As the conflict becomes messier, we do not think that institutional investors will delight at the news."

Norilsk has lost executives, including its CEO, in the past month as Potanin, the largest shareholder, tries to fend off a merger with United Company RusAl. Potanin and Prokhorov are also trying to split their holdings after deciding to end a business partnership.

Norilsk closed down 203 rubles, or 4.1 percent, at 4,741.86 rubles ($202) on the MICEX. Earlier it traded at 4,375 rubles. A close at that price would be the biggest one-day decline since January 2007.

n Polyus Gold said Wednesday that it knew nothing beyond media reports about a planned asset swap between its chairman, Prokhorov, and Potanin. It said the only information it had was from a statement Prokhorov's Onexim Group released Tuesday.