Norilsk Nickel directors elected Andrei Bugrov, an executive of Interros holding, as chairman of the metals giant's board of directors on Tuesday, in a move likely to intensify the long-standing dispute between Norilsk's core shareholders Interros and RusAl, Kommersant business paper reported on Wednesday.
Tuesday's vote came as a blow to aluminum giant RusAl, the holder of a 25 percent stake in Norilsk Nickel, as the company hoped that Alexander Voloshin, the former Kremlin chief of staff, would keep his post as the chairman of the Norilsk board of directors. Voloshin enjoyed RusAl support but was formally independent.
RusAl, owned by Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska and Interros, which holds about 30 percent in Norilsk and is the investment arm of another Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin, have long been fighting for control of Norilsk Nickel. Interros has previously offered to buy RusAl's 25 percent stake in Norilsk for $12 billion and also offered to buy 20 percent of its shares for $12.8 billion but the aluminum company rejected both offers.
Uralsib analyst Dmitry Smolin told RIA Novosti that Bugrov's election as Norilsk board chairman may trigger a new wave of conflict between RusAl and Interros.
"This (election) is bad from the viewpoint of corporate governance. Also, it is becoming evident that the shareholder's conflict will not end peacefully and the government should interfere to resolve it," Smolin said.
UniCredit analyst Marat Gabitov told RIA Novosti that Bugrov's election had not been predicted and was ill-thought.
"Generally speaking, an independent representative should be the board chairman of such a large company as Norilsk Nickel," he said, adding that Bugrov's election could prompt Norilsk Nickel to make a new buyout offer to RusAl.
The previous AGM in 2010 led to an intensification of the protracted struggle for control of Norilsk between RusAl and Interros. RusAl claimed the Norilsk board became dominated by managers linked to Interros after that AGM, where RusAl lost one board seat, while Interros increased its representation.