Last week, after the Russian Miner Norilsk Nickel’s shareholders elected the new 13-member board, Oleg Deripaska, who controls 25 percent stake in the company and who was unhappy with the election outcome, surprised investors and media alike by erroneously claiming that the Russian government requested that the outgoing Norilsk Nickel’s Chairman Alexander Voloshin be reinstated as the head of the Board.
In a statement made today, Dmitry Peskov, the spokesperson for the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, said that “he is not aware of any such government request”. Furthermore, Mr. Voloshin, a powerful Kremlin power-broker and a former chief of staff for presidents Yeltsin and Putin, has been assigned to head the governmental think tank responsible for creating a global financial hub in Moscow, according to the official Kremlin website.
Michael Thompson, senior analyst for RUXX index, which tracks Russian companies traded on Western exchanges, says that Oleg Deripaska is trying to capitalize on his close ties with the Russian government to increase his presence in the Norilsk’s board, but the Kremlin is unlikely to interfere in the public company’s operations: “Stating that the government demands Alexander Voloshin to be reinstated as the Chairman of Norilsk Nickel is an understandable yet slightly desperate move to turn a corporate affair into political one - a move which might concern foreign investors. It’s highly unlikely that the Kremlin will choose to interfere with the dispute given that the incoming Chairman of the Board, Vasily Titov, also has strong government backing as the Vice Chairman of the state-controlled banking giant VTB,” says Thompson.
Oleg Deripaska stated that Rusal will attempt to reinstate Alexander Voloshin as the Chairman of the Board of Norilsk at the next shareholders meeting in July. Analysts polled by RUXX for this report said that they are following the situation and hope that it will be resolved soon, before the dispute affects the company’s day-to-day operations.
In a phone interview with RUXX, Interros representative called Oleg Deripaska’s statements about the government’s demands “an illusion”: “Rusal has to adjust its own interests to those of Norilsk Nickel. We think that Rusal’s actions damage Norilsk’s corporate reputation”. Interros, according to the spokesperson, will not support Rusal’s initiatives to elect the new Board of Directors, even if this subject comes up at the next shareholders’ meeting.
“Without Interros’s support, Rusal is unlikely to secure changes in the Board,” adds Michael Thompson.