February 22, 2013 11:51 pm

Prokhorov sells gold stake for $3.6bn

Mikhail Prokhorov has sold his 38 per cent stake in London-listed Polyus Gold to two Russian investors for $3.6bn, a milestone for the Russian billionaire who has lately shown more interest in politics and less in his business empire.

The deal marks the second major metals sector asset that Mr Prokhorov has sold in half a decade after disposing of his 25 per cent stake in Norilsk Nickel for $7bn in 2008.

The sale of Polyus marked another significant step. “Polyus Gold has been one of the major assets of Onexim Group . . . part of the company’s creation, practically from scratch” said Dmitry Razumov, the chief executive of Onexim Group, one of Russia’s largest private investment funds.

Mr Prokhorov’s Onexim Group sold an 18.5 per cent stake in Polyus to Zelimkhan Mutsoyev, a Russian billionaire who made his money in retail, for $1.77bn and the remaining 19.28 per cent stake to Gavril Yushvayev, who produces fruit juice, for $1.85bn.

Mr Prokhorov ran in the March presidential elections against Vladimir Putin, taking a surprising third place. In November he announced to supporters of his political party, Civic Platform, that he will be a full-time politician. “From this day forward I will engage exclusively in political activity,” Mr Prokhorov said at the party convention in Moscow.

The Polyus deal has been under way for months but was put under review by the UK’s Takeover Panel, which was studying the links between the two buyers and their links with another oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, who controls 40 per cent of Polyus. Had they been determined to be acting in concert as a single buyer, it would have triggered a mandatory buyout offer.

Mr Prokhorov still has some large holdings in Russia’s metals and commodity sector – an estimated 17 per cent stake in Russia's aluminium group Rusal and mining company Intergeo. In addition he has interests in banking and the Brooklyn Nets basketball club in the USA.

Mr Prokhorov has shown a talent for selling at the top of the market – six months after he sold his stake in Norilsk Nickel, the Russian stock market crashed and he was transformed into Russia’s richest man for 2008.

Time will tell if he timed his sale of Polyus well – gold prices have fallen 5 per cent since December.  

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