Vekselberg Backs a State RusAl Stake

Billionaire Viktor Vekselberg said Wednesday that it made sense for the state to take a stake in United Company RusAl, following a report that majority owner and chief executive Oleg Deripaska had made a similar offer to President Dmitry Medvedev.

Vekselberg, who gained a stake in the aluminum company when it merged with his SUAL in 2006, said converting RusAl's debt into privileged shares for the government was a reasonable way to help the company resolve its financial obligations.

Privileged shares pay dividends but would not give the state voting rights.

"At the moment, the positions of the business and the government are aligned in that [the government taking a stake in RusAl] should be a temporary measure. The state should be able to sell the stake again at a profit," Vekselberg said, Interfax reported.

Vekselberg did not specify at what price the company's debt should be converted.

Kommersant reported Wednesday that Deripaska had written a letter to Medvedev proposing that the government take on $6 billion of the company's debt to state banks in exchange for privileged shares.

Deripaska said the shares should go at a price that reflects the average price of aluminum over the course of "a full commodities cycle," the newspaper said, citing a copy of the letter.