Russian aluminium giant UC Rusal has faced another punch in the face, this time from one of its shareholders — Viktor Vekselberg, who has been partnering Oleg Deripaska in the aluminium business through his SUAL Partners, which holds 15,8% of Rusal for the benifit of Vekselberg and his partner Leonard Blavatnik, publicly resigned from the position of Chairman of the Board of the aluminium company.
Russian media reported
, that in the letter to Rusal’s board members Vekselberg has aggressively criticized business model of Rusal, accusing Deripaska of running the company into a huge debt, being ineffective during a crisis times, and personally responsible for drawing Rusal into a huge amount of litigations and social conflicts.
Rusal responded with defensive statement, saying that Vekselberg has not been fulfilling his obligations as a board member for the last year, and that the question of his resignation was already on the table. Immediately after that Oleg Deripaska, the main owner of the aluminium company and the creator of Rusal strategy, has filled the gap in the board created by Vekselberg’s expel by appointment as Rusal’s Chairman of the Board Barry Cheung, who also chairs the Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange (HKME). As a strange coincidence, Oleg Deripaska acquired 10 percent of the HKME in June 2010 through his En+ Group.
Viktor Vekselberg addressed the media responding to Rusal’s statement about his non-involvement in Rusal’s life with a strong denial, saying that he would have to take that matter to the court. He also criticised the appointment of Barry Cheung, saying that "The company should have completed a full-fledged examination of the candidates for the post of Chairman of the Board of Directors with the assistance of international consultants. Moreover, SUAL Partners stated position remains that the Board of Directors of the company, 80 percent of the assets of which are located in Russia, should be chaired by a Russian citizen, whose independence from any of the major shareholders of UC Rusal is beyond any doubt."
Conflict between Oleg Deripaska and his business partners Viktor Vekselberg and Michael Prokhorov, who had run in the presidential race agains Vladimir Putin in March this year, had started from the beginning — when Rusal and SUAL merged to create aluminium giant. Back in 2007 Rusal had run in a huge debt and entered the financial crisis in very unfavorable position. In 2008 Deripaska had bought out the stake in Norilsk Nickel from Michael Prokhorov, and force Rusal into corporate war against another owner of Norilsk Nickel, Vladimir Potanin. Vekselberg and Prokhorov had never supported Deripaska’s aggressive strategy and his hostile behavior towards Norilsk Nickel shareholders, what brought the company into a 4-years conflict and serious devaluation. Analysts and financial experts believe that Vekselberg, Blavatnik and Prokhorov may be seeking for the ways to quit the “unsuccessful aluminium boat”, selling their stakes to Glencore or Metalloinvest.
While Rusal, is the subject of a strategic tug-of-war between Deripaska and other billionaires including Vekselberg and recent presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov it is still the world’s largest aluminium producer, located in the country with changing political situation. Presidential elections would irreversibly lead to inauguration of Vladimir Putin as the President, what would lead to a certain shuffle in the government. Russian oligarchs would have to reinitiate their arrangements with the authorities to preserve their businesses, while there are ongoing discussions about nationalization of ineffectively operated enterprises from their current owners.
Sergei Mironov, who also participated in the presidential race in March, submitted to the State Duma the law project which would lead to nationalization of the loss making strategic businesses from their current owners, who perform ineffective management. Lawmakers uses Rusal and its Russian plants as the main example of troublemaking ownership with evasive tax payments, low wages and non-transparent business models.