Norilsk to Go Ahead With $2Bln Buyback

Norilsk Nickel will proceed with a $2 billion, 4 percent share buyback, the miner decided Friday at a board meeting, where it was announced that the heir to the imperial Russian throne would serve as the firm's lobbyist to the European Union.

The miner will pay 6,147 rubles ($220) per share but will only purchase those that have been tendered in the period from Sept. 29 to Oct. 28.

The buyback has been a matter of dispute between the company's major shareholder Oleg Deripaska, who holds a 25 percent stake in the company and Vladimir Potanin, who holds about 30 percent of the firm and chairs the miner's board.

RusAl, controlled by Deripaska, filed a suit against Norilsk on Oct. 29 seeking to cancel the buyback. The company said Potanin was acting against the interest of other shareholders, as the company's share price had fallen sharply since the decision on the buyback was made in August.

The court froze the buyback following the suit but withdrew its decision earlier this month. Deripaska said in November that he had dropped his opposition to the buyback.

At the Norilsk board meeting on Friday, CEO Vladimir Strzhalkovsky also announced that Grand Duke Georgy Romanov would serve as his adviser.

An Oxford-graduate, Duke Romanov will be tasked with holding talks with the European Commission, which is now discussing whether to classify a number of nickel compounds as hazardous substances.

"This issue became especially sensitive for us in a time of crisis," a Norilsk spokeswoman, who declined to be identified in line with the company's policy, said Friday.

"Some of the compounds may be classified as affecting health even though no one has conducted any research into them."

Norilsk exports most of the compounds it produces in Russia.

Romanov, 27, was picked for the position "as he had a significant experience working with EU political structures," the spokeswoman said.

In a separate development, Kinross Gold president Tye Burt, a RusAl-nominated candidate to the Norilsk board, withdrew his candidacy. No one answered the telephone at the Kinross Gold press office in Toronto on Friday.

A new board is to be elected at a Dec. 26 shareholders' meeting

Another RusAl-nominated candidate, FIAT chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo withdrew his candidacy on Thursday, citing "an increasing number of other obligations" as a reason.

RusAl did not comment on the decisions of its nominees Friday.

The company's shares closed up .02 percent in Friday trading on the MICEX.