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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Potanin Says He'll Float a Blue Chip Every Year

VedomostiInterros chief Vladimir Potanin
Vladimir Potanin, the tycoon who controls Norilsk Nickel and some of Russia's biggest banks, media firms and machinery makers, said he would float his privately held companies one by one on the stock market.

"Our target is to offer one new blue chip a year to the market," Potanin said in an interview.

The former deputy prime minister earned the beginnings of his fortune as a banker to Russian exporters, then branched out into the sale of state natural resource companies, eventually becoming a partner of BP in Russia.

He will exit their joint gas venture, Rusia Petroleum, by year end, he said.

His main asset now is one of Russia's longest-standing large companies, Norilsk Nickel, the world's biggest palladium and nickel producer, through the vast holding Interros.

The new campaign to bring Interros firms to a market starved for new issues began last week with the listing of Siloviye Mashiny, a large producer and exporter of electricity generation equipment. A private sale of Siloviye Mashiny stock to portfolio investors is expected in the next two weeks. "The first results show that the demand for these shares is much higher than we expected," he said. "It is much higher than the fair price that was determined by our advisers."

Next on the list, he said, could be Rosbank, a large retail bank that he said should follow in the steps of Sberbank and hit the RTS bourse.

He said his media holding, Prof-Media, which owns top Soviet-era newspaper names Izvestia and Komsomolskaya Pravda as well as a stake in publisher Independent Media, was as far down the road to a public offering as Rosbank.

Potanin, one of the biggest investors in agriculture -- seen as a huge, if risky, business opportunity after parliament passed a law permitting land sales to bring investment into the collective-dominated farm business -- said his Agros holding was less prepared to go public. "I cannot tell you which will be first. They will compete" for the honor of a stock float, he said.

Potanin said Norilsk Nickel would eventually amount to less than 50 percent of the assets in his Interros holding, down from 75 percent or 80 percent now.

"The changes to their relative share [of Interros holdings] will not happen through the sale of Norilsk Nickel shares, but by investing in other areas," he said. "We want to turn Norilsk Nickel into BHP," he said, referring to the world's biggest diversified mining company, BHP Billiton.