Oligarch will turn off the oligarch's eyes

In the context of the reduction of the "feed base," long-standing contradictions between Viktor Vekselberg and Oleg Deripaska escalated.


In the context of the reduction of the "feed base," long-standing contradictions between Viktor Vekselberg and Oleg Deripaska escalated.

Sual Partners (Sual) oligarch Viktor Vekselberg is trying to gain access to information about Oleg Deripaska's major Rusal transactions, where Sual has a 25.72% stake. We are talking about several potentially unprofitable projects of dubious value that could cost the company too much, and, as a result, Viktor Vekselberg.

Since Oleg Deripaska is in no hurry to provide the necessary information to partners, it seems that we are facing a brewing new conflict between influential businessmen. And in the past there were many of them - and in conditions of economic turbulence and sanctions, this can turn into a real war.

Details - in the material of the correspondent of The Moscow Post.

The interest of Vekselberg's structure was caused by several Rusal transactions. The first is a joint project with the American company Braidy Industries to build an aluminum plant in the United States.

The agreement on it was signed in 2019, already during the period of sanctions pressure on Rusal. But the project was not implemented at all due to the heated corporate scandal inside Braidy Industries, and now that both oligarchs are under cross-sanctions, this is out of the question.

The second deal that interested Vekselberg is the purchase of a 4.35% stake in the state corporation RusHydro from VSMPO-Avisma. Then the acquired share rose to 9%, but the purchase structure turned out to be opaque - through many transactions over two years. Apparently, this was not agreed with Sual, how much money was spent on this is also a question.

If it turns out that the transactions were problematic, or even worse, then a minority shareholder in the person of Sual may receive a lever of pressure on Rusal and personally Oleg Deripaska. This is probably why the latest information is in no hurry to disclose.

Apples of contention

In the past, both oligarchs have repeatedly clashed, continuing to enrich themselves in the Russian bowels. Back in 2011, a similar dispute arose around Rusal's contract with trader Glencore, which at that time had an 8.75% stake in the company. It was about Glencore gaining control over half of Rusal's aluminum sales abroad. This was written by the publication Ura.ru.

It is believed Glencore could have been influenced by powerful Russian entrepreneur Gennady Timchenko. Perhaps he agreed with Deripaska, but the same "Sual" Viktor Vekselberg did not like it. Then, however, they had fewer shares at their disposal than today - 15.8%.

And the reason was that Rusal offered Glencore a contract without any competition or procedures, there were no tenders among other traders, therefore, the deal could have a corruption soul with a plus for Deripaska's top managers.

As a result, Sual, by agreement with a number of other shareholders, vetoed Rusal's decision. He was even supported by Mikhail Prokhorov from ONEXIM Group, who initially advocated a deal with Glencore. But Oleg Deripaska simply ignored the veto. What, apparently, aroused serious hostility and suspicion on the part of Vekselberg's team.

But that's not all. Conflicts flared up on other occasions. According to FLB, Deripaska was generally largely inclined to ignore the minority shareholders of Rusal and their opinion. For example, minority shareholders advocated the sale of Rusal's stake in Norilsk Nickel, which Deripaska categorically opposed.

And another reason for the conflict was the fate of the Ural Rusal factories, which in the past belonged to Viktor Vekselberg's Sual. Rusal wanted to curtail aluminum production on them because it is unprofitable due to high electricity prices. And a significant part of this energy was supplied by the IES holding, which is part of the Renova group of companies of Viktor Vekselberg.

Thus, Rusal accused Renova of not giving the plant discounts, clearly hinting at the need to reduce prices. Renova believed that it was Rusal that did not modernize enterprises in order to increase their energy efficiency.

All these conflicts took place, in many ways, under the carpet. But at one point, the contradictions turned into a public plane when Viktor Vekselberg wrote an open letter, the tone of which was clearly not complementary to Oleg Deripaska.

"I am forced to state with regret that Rusal is currently in a deep crisis caused by management actions, as a result of which Rusal has turned from a world leader in the aluminum industry into a company overloaded with debts, involved in a large number of legal litigation and social conflicts," wrote in 2012 Vekselberg. Forbes quotes him as saying.

Oleg Deripaska. Photo: kirov-portal.ru

Note that at that time Rusal had debts of $11 billion. But Rusal has debts today - and considerable. As of mid-2022, they were estimated at $5.8 billion, and increased by 23.6% over the year.

While Deripaska is busy with Potanin

Debt and losses mean less dividends to minority shareholders. Apparently, Viktor Vekselberg decided that now is a good time to attack Deripaska. And he himself was just recently bogged down in the next conflict - on Norilsk Nickel with the no less ambiguous oligarch Vladimir Potanin. The moment is perfect.

In October 2022, Rusal, which has 26% of Norilsk Nickel, filed a lawsuit with the High Court of London against Vladimir Potanin. The plaintiff considered that under the management of Potanin, who became the general director of Norilsk Nickel in 2012, and then its president, the company "lost a number of business assets that played a key role in the group's activities," which led to "significant losses," UC Rusal said in a statement.

The lost assets were NordStar (sold to management in March 2022), Industrial Construction and Installation Company (PSMK), and logistics services operator Logistics Center, the key customers of which are Norilsk Nickel enterprises.

In the case of NordStar, the deal may even be fictitious, while Potanin could actually remain in control of the company. After all, almost the entire management of the airline was agreed by his team - they can only "keep" the asset. But Deripaska can no longer get to him.

The most "sworn partner" of Oleg Deripaska is still Vladimir Potanin. Photo: forbes.com

The most interesting thing is that the possibility of filing such a claim was signed in a special agreement between the shareholders of Norilsk Nickel, primarily Deripaska and Potanin, who ended a major corporate conflict over the company's shares in 2012.

At the end of 2022, the agreement expired, so Deripaska was about to arrive at the very end. And among other things, it provided for a financial monitoring service through which shareholders could monitor whether one of their influence groups was pulling the blanket over themselves - read, taking too much.

Just at this time, Vladimir Potanin targeted the Kolomozerskoye lithium deposit in the Murmansk region, which accounts for almost 19% of lithium reserves in Russia. And as a partner, he took himself not Deripaska at all, but the Russian state corporation Rosatom. Obviously, the contradictions between the Russian oligarchs in the conditions of reducing the feed base are aggravated.

Immediately you can recall that the same Potanin, according to rumors, could try to buy a stake in En + from Polina Yumasheva, the former wife of Oleg Deripaska. The Moscow Post told about that situation. Then the deal did not take place, but there was no more trust between Deripaska and Potanin.

In general, Potanin's struggle with Deripaska for Norilsk Nickel shares was acute, with many phases. At one of them, Rusal announced its intention to ask its shareholders for a mandate for "Russian roulette" to buy or sell shares in Norilsk Nickel. It was that Rusal was ready to buy Potanin's stake in Norilsk Nickel (30.3%) in the range of $25-32 per ADR ($10.8-13.9 billion) or sell its stake (27.8%) in the company from an estimate above $32 per ADR (more than $14.1 billion). Forbes wrote about this.

Deripaska has such an attitude towards strategic assets. Will this happen in the case of Rusal against the background of aggravated contradictions with Vekselberg?

Who does not pay "Promissory Note"

At the same time, Viktor Vekselberg himself is also under a series of Western sanctions. And at the same time he is a conflicted person - he has enough ill-wishers. In 2016, the oligarch survived a real "attack" on himself when the acting head of the Komi Republic, Sergei Gaplikov, cashed the President on the Vekselberg Vorkutinskaya CHPP. About this wrote Version.

The reason was that the owners allegedly do not seek to modernize the equipment, the boilers are old, they require major repairs, which is a very high accident rate. As the same Versiya wrote, the situation could be beneficial to the owner of Severstal, Alexei Mordashov. But in the end, Vekselberg was able to answer the claims - it turned out that Komi's utilities owed power engineers 5 billion rubles, and also nodded to high coal prices.

When everything is blocked in the West, do only Russian partners remain to milk Viktor Vekselberg? Photo: Ekaterina Kuzmina/RBC

And now Vekselberg has many other headaches, in addition to the crumbling industries, which have not been modernized for a long time. For example, Western institutions do not return debts to him - back in 2019, the English bank refused to return the loan taken and froze the accrual of interest.

Therefore, it is already difficult for Vekselberg to seek happiness in the West - it has to deal with what is in Russia. And in Russia there are partners who are not averse to snatching their piece at the peak of minority shareholders. Thus, in the context of a reduction in the "feed base," such conflicts and mutual claims will only grow.