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Oleg Deripaska

Oleg Deripaska
Based in London
Active in Mongolia, Russia, Canada
Targeted base metals, energy fuels

Oleg Derispaska was once Russia’s richest individual, thanks to his investments in UC Rusal (see Interros Holding), the country’s biggest aluminium producer (and possibly the world's), of which he became CEO in January 2009 [Georgian Daily, 2 February 2009]. But, by early 2009, he was burdened with massive debt [MJ 27 March 2009].

Deripaska signed a “standstill” agreement in March 2009 with creditors on his repayment of UC Rusal’s massive US$14 billion debt, as he strove to increase the company’s liquidity [MJ 13 March 2009; MJ 9 October 2009].

Deripaska also controls the Russian mining, metals and energy group EN+, which holds a 47.41% stake in RUSAL. EN+ also owns EuroSibEnergo PLC (one of the world's largest hydro generation companies and largest Russian independent power producer) and SMR (one of the world's largest ferromolybdenum producers). En+ Group has a "pipeline" that includes projects in coal and uranium mining, nuclear power and downstream aluminium production.

EN+ in February 2009 made an offer for a 49% stake in Mongolia’s Erdenes-Tavan Tolgoi coking-coal deposit – a major potential mine (with reserves of some 6 billion tonnes), for which Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Xstrata had reportedly also made previous bids. The Mongolian government was said to have acted “positively” to Deripaska’s move, which is backed by fellow oligarchs, Alexei Mordashov and Viktor Vekselberg [MJ 20 February 2009].

However, in March 2012,the Mongolian government said it aimed to list shares in Erdenes-Tavan Tolgoi Co. later in the year, pushing back the target for the anticipated US$3 billion listing ahead of parliamentary elections in June - with a view to the listing taking place in Ulan Bator, London and Hong Kong [Wall Street Journal 21 March 2012].

Graeme Hancock, the chief operating officer at the company that controls the world's largest coking-coal deposit, said the initial public offering has been delayed because of weak sentiment surrounding new listings in London and the absence of a new Mongolian securities law that will create the necessary legal framework for the planned three-part listing

In 2008, Deripaska hit the UK news headlines. He entertained a group of British VIPs that summer on his Meditteranean yacht; one of his guests - the opposition Tory Party’s shadow finance minister, George Osborne ( now the UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer) - was said to have approached the oligarch for Party funds. Behind the accusation, it appears, was the governing Labour Party’s business affairs supremo, Lord Peter (“prince of darkness”) Mandelsohn, himself an old friend of Deripaska.

As Trade Minister for the European Union, Mandelsohn had secured tariff concessions on Russian aluminium imports into Europe.

In March 2012, UC Rusal recorded a fourth quarter 2011 US$1.43 billion "write down" on its holding in Norilsk Nikel, after the resignation of Viktor Vekselberg as chairman of Rusal.

Vekselberg (with a 15% holding in UC Rusal) had joined with his partner, Leonid Blavatnik, and minority shareholder Mikhail Prokhorov (see Renaissance Capital), in arguing that Rusal should sell its stake in the world's largest nickel producer. For his part, Deripaska had refused all four offers made by Norilsk to buy back its shares [MJ 23 March 2012].

In late March 2012, Deripaska struck a deal with a junior Quebec miner that could, according to the Financial Post "represent a small taste of a larger appetite by the soft-spoken industrialist for assets in the province" [Financial Post, 28 March 2012].

The oligarch signed a memorandum of understanding with Montreal-based Orbite Aluminae Inc. to start a joint venture to develop Orbite’s Grande Vallée clay deposit and build a new alumina refinery. This marked Deripaska's "first known tangible business deal in Canada since he was forced to surrender his 20% stake in Ontario auto supplier Magna International Inc. to creditor BNP Paribas SA on a margin call in 2008".

The Financial Post pointed out that, in 2011, Deripaska reportedly held talks with state-owned utility Hydro-Quebec about building electric power plants in the developing world. However, "[i]t wasn’t immediately clear what became of those discussions, if anything. A Hydro spokesman said the utility has no plans to undertake any international projects at this time" [Financial Post ibid].

Rusal said its investment in the first stage of the Orbite project may reach $25-million over a number of years.

In late April 2012, Deripaska threatened to loddge a criminal complaint, should Norilsk attempt to buy back any more of its shares in RUSAL. He also commented, in an interview with London's Mining Journal, that Rusal would shed between 300,000 and 600,000 tonnes of its current capacity, potentially adding "new, more efficient projects".

Anticipating tightened Russian environmental legislation, Deripaska remarked that: "In six years' time, you won't be able to run a business in Russia unless you modernise. Penalities will increase almost 25 times, and companies will face direct dmaages for violations" [MJ 27 April 2012].

Finally, as the year drew to an end, Deripaska announced he'd finally reached a deal with Vladimir Potanin (See Interros Holding) in their battle for control of Norilsk Nickel.

The two warring parties agreed that Potanin would become Norilsk's CEO - and that a third Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich, would acquire 7.3% of the company's "quasi-treasury" stock, through his investment company, Millhouse CapitalLLC.

The Russian brokerage, Renaissance Capital, greeted the arrangement as "positive" for both Norilsk and Rusal, while pointing out that it "provided no significant relief" for RUSAL's debt situation which "was about US$10.7 billion as of September 30 (2012)" [MJ ibid].