VTB Applies To Buy 50% Of Polyus

VTB has requested clearance to buy up to 50 percent of Polyus Gold, Russia's largest gold miner, an official at the country's anti-monopoly watchdog said Wednesday.

Alexei Ulyanov, head of the industrial division of the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service, said the request would be denied because the seller had not been disclosed. But he said it could be accepted after the seller is known.

Separately, a source close to the negotiations said VTB had requested anti-monopoly permission to buy 30 percent of Polyus on behalf of a client interested in building a large metals company.

Mikhail Prokhorov and Vladimir Potanin each own about 30 percent of Polyus.

A spokeswoman for Potanin's investment vehicle, Interros, denied knowledge of the request. VTB declined to comment, while Prokhorov's Onexim Group could not immediately be reached for comment.

In December, Vedomosti quoted unnamed sources as saying Prokhorov and Potanin, with billionaire Suleiman Kerimov, were planning a complex deal of debt repayments and stake reshuffling that would involve Polyus.

"It looks like the stake in Polyus is being transformed from a weapon into an instrument for settling differences between majority shareholders," said Deutsche Bank analyst Olga Okuneva.