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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Norilsk Puts First Foreign Director on Board

Norilsk Nickel shareholders on Sunday voted three independent directors -- and the first foreigner ever -- onto its nine-member board at an annual shareholders meeting.

The foreigner, Guy de Selliers, formerly a senior official at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, had been supported by Interros, Norilsk Nickel's majority shareholder. De Selliers is a member of the supervisory board of Fortis, a Dutch-Belgian financial services group.

"It's good they have someone from the industry, someone that the international market knows," said Alexander Andreyev, metals analyst at Brunswick UBS Warburg.

The other new independent directors are Vladimir Dolgikh, the chairman of Krasnoyarsk Zemlyachestvo, and Vladimir Lisin, head of the Novolipetsk Metallurgical Plant, or NLMK.

Dolgikh is technically independent but is believed to be loyal to management.

It was unclear ahead of the meeting if Lisin, who was nominated by offshore companies with a minority stake in Norilsk Nickel, would win. Analysts and metals experts have said they believe Lisin controls the companies that nominated him, making him a minority shareholder representative. He ended up with 9.57 percent of the vote Sunday.

"Lisin is a well-known manager," said NLMK spokesman Andrei Sidorov. "Shareholders just wanted to see him [on the board]."

Interros and Norilsk had owned a controlling stake in NLMK but sold it in March after failed attempts to have more say in the steel plant's operations.

Interros kept control of the board at the meeting. Representing Interros and Norilsk management are:

Andrei Klishas, Interros general director

Sergei Alexashenko, Interros deputy general director

Larisa Zelkova, head of press relations for Interros

Yekaterina Salnikova, Interros corporate governance director

Leonid Rozhetskin, deputy chairman of Norilsk Nickel's management board and president of consulting firm, L-V Finance Ltd.

Andrei Bugrov, former World Bank director for Russia, a deputy chairman at Interros.

Klishas was appointed chairman.

Interros plans to keep its controlling 62 percent stake in Norilsk and to maintain control of the board for the foreseeable future, he said.

Analysts said the results of the meeting were positive.

"Lisin is absolutely independent from the company. His interests coincide with those of minority shareholders, which I believe coincide with the interests of Interros: a higher share price," said Vladimir Titkov, metals analyst at Renaissance Capital.

Andreyev was more cautious. "I don't know what his agenda is," he said. "This should be neutral to positive for minority shareholders."

Norilsk shareholders approved a new company charter that is in line with the joint-stock company law and, Titkov said, improves minority shareholder protection.

Shareholders also approved the company's dividend policy, 20 percent to 25 percent of net profits under international accounting standards starting next year. They approved a dividend of 23 rubles per common share for 2001.