HOUSTON (ICIS)--Billionaire Suleiman Kerimov is apparently selling his share of potash fertilizer producer Uralkali to Russian businessman Vladimir Kogan for $3.7bn (€2.8bn), Russian news agencies said on Friday.
Speculation that this transaction would take place has been gaining momentum since Belarus authorities arrested Uralkali CEO Vladislav Baumgertner on 26 August over allegations that he abused his power as chairman of Belarusian Potash Co (BPC), a joint trading venture between Russia-based Uralkali and Belarus state-owned producer Belaruskali.
Russian media said Kerimov and Kogan have agreed to the sale of the 21.7% stake held by Kerimov and that the transaction should be concluded within a few weeks. Kerimov has been in the spotlight following Baumgertner’s detention in Minsk and has found himself also accused of abuse of authority by Belarus authorities.
At this time, the investigators who are reviewing the case against Uralkali executives have charged Kerimov and requested that Interpol issue an arrest warrant, but the agency earlier denied that request, according to a statement from the Investigative Committee of Belarus.
Kerimov has not made any public comments on either matter and representatives at his investment company, Nafta, as well as Uralkali officials have declined comment on the sale.
There is a growing sentiment that once the transfer of ownership is completed that Belarus authorities will be more inclined to release Baumgertner and look for some means of mending the fractured partnership.
Until then Baumgertner’s legal team remains relentless in the effort to free him from custody.
An appeal of a decision to keep the CEO jailed by the district court on 6 September was rejected Friday by the city court of Minsk.
The court informed Baumgertner’s legal team that it was upholding the earlier decision by the Partizansky District Court, which had ordered that the fertilizer executive remain in custody while authorities continue their ongoing investigation.
Russian officials and Uralkali management have been infuriated by the actions of Belarus authorities and have repeatedly demanded that Baumgertner be released, saying his detention was unjustified and politically motivated.
Adding to the acrimony between the political and economic allies is the fact that since Baumgertner was incarcerated, Russia has banned imports of hogs and pork products from Belarus as well as placed sanctions on oil and dairy products.
For its part Belarus has not back down, with the nation’s president, Alexander Lukashenko, blaming the situation and the fallout within the potash global market on what he termed “Russian scoundrels” despite saying earlier this week that he envisions an eventual return of both entities to a trading venture.
In response to Lukashenko comments, Uralkali said it was moving forward on its own, expanding production capacity and it had no inclination to be a part of the joint venture now or in the foreseeable future.
($1 = €0.75)