Uralkali has no plans to return to Belarus potash pact
Russia's Uralkali, the world's largest potash miner by output, said on Tuesday it had no plans to return to a trade alliance with Belarus and dismissed speculation about changes to its shareholder structure.
Uralkali, which missed analysts' forecasts with a 53 percent fall in first-half profit, is at the centre of a potash row between Russia and Belarus, triggered when the Russian company quit a joint sales cartel in July - rocking the global potash industry.
Since then Belarus has arrested Uralkali's boss and fuelled speculation that the company's main shareholder, billionaire Suleiman Kerimov may have to sell his 21.75 percent stake.
"We don't have any additional information from our big shareholders concerning potential changes in the shareholder structure," Viktor Belyakov, Uralkali's chief financial officer and acting chief executive, said on a conference call.
The company has formed a new strategy following the break-up of the agreement with Belaruskali in late July and under its current plans does not foresee returning to a trade alliance with Belarus in potash, used as a fertilizer.
"The board of Uralkali has approved the new strategy, which does not provide for reunification," Uralkali's chairman Alexander Voloshin, a former Kremlin chief of staff, said on the call.
Shares in Uralkali, which dropped nearly 19 percent when the firm said it had quit the joint venture with Belarus, have rallied this week on Russian press speculation that buyers were interested in Kerimov's stake.
The Kommersant daily on Tuesday added construction tycoon Arkady Rotenberg, a former judo partner of President Vladimir Putin, to a shortlist of potential buyers that has surfaced in unsourced reports in the Moscow financial press.
None of the suitors mentioned in the press - Rotenberg, oil investor Mikhail Gutseriev or ex-banker Vladimir Kogan - have confirmed their interest. Telecoms-to-retail billionaire Vladimir Evtushenkov, also named, has issued a denial.
Rotenberg's representative declined to comment on Tuesday, while Gutseriev and Kogan could not immediately be reached for comment.
Belarus arrested Uralkali CEO Vladislav Baumgertner on Aug. 26 as he visited the country on the invitation of its prime minister. He faces up to 10 years in jail on charges of abuse of power. The ex-Soviet state later accused top shareholder Kerimov of the same crimes.
Impact on Global Prices
Uralkali had expected the break-up of its trading alliance to drive the global potash price below $300 per tonne in the second half of 2013, from $400. But on Tuesday the firm said demand would keep the price from sinking too low.
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