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Proposed merger between Rusal and Norilsk Nickel put off

Reuters quoted Russian aluminium tycoon Mr Oleg Deripaska as saying that discussion of a Russian mining mega merger that would create a rival to BHP Billiton has been put off for 3 years because of the crisis.

It may be note that Rusal, the world's largest aluminium producer, bought a stake in the world's top nickel and palladium producer Norilsk Nickel from billionaire Mr Mikhail Prokhorov, leaving Mr Prokhorov's partner, Mr Vladimir Potanin and his Interros group as the controlling shareholder in the miner.

Key shareholders in both companies had expressed cautious interest in an eventual merger of the two companies to create a rival to the world's top miners, but Mr Deripaska said talks were now suspended. He added that "We agreed not to bring it up with Interros for three years. The idea was not well developed and everyone was in shock. No one wants to try to sunbathe in a storm."

Rusal is working on an agreement with 73 banks to restructure USD 7.3 billion in debt to foreign lenders, who have insisted the deal include a mechanism for clearing the VEB debt. The current standstill expires on September 18th 2009.

Mr Deripaska said that Rusal had broached the idea of issuing a convertible bond on the stake and would return to it if VEB was interested. He added that "Definitely not below the purchase price."

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