By Lukas I. Alpert
MOSCOW--Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov's Onexim holding company said Friday it has sold its entire 37.8% stake in the country's largest gold miner, Polyus Gold International Ltd. (>> Polyus Gold International Ltd), to two bidders for a combined $3.61 billion after the deal was approved by the U.K.'s takeover panel.
In a statement, Onexim said it had sold an 18.5% stake to Lizarazu Ltd., a company associated with real-estate baron Zelimkhan Mutsoyev for $1.77 billion. Onexim also sold 19.28% of the company to Receza Ltd., a firm associated with Gavril Yushvaev, the former co-owner of Russian juice maker Wimm-Bill-Dann which was sold to PepsiCo Inc. (>> PepsiCo, Inc.) in 2010. This stake was valued at $1.85 billion.
In September, Onexim said it was in talks with two potential buyers for Mr. Prokhorov's stake in the company--which has the world's third-largest gold reserves.
When Onexim first said it was in talks, it laid out a possible deal that involved the sale of less than 20% of the company to each of the two undisclosed parties. Speculation immediately focused on Mr. Prokhorov's co-owner in Polyus, Suleiman Kerimov, who owns 40.2% of the company's stock. His holding company, Nafta Moskva, had denied involvement from the start.
The proposed deal came before the U.K.'s Takeover Panel to determine whether the proposed buyers were acting independently or in concert as a single owner. Had the panel determined that the two were acting together and would control more than 30% of Polyus, it would have forced a mandatory offer to buy out minorities.
Mr. Mutsoyev, who is worth $1.5 billion according to Forbes, is a partner with Mr. Kerimov in potash giant Uralkali (>> Uralkaliy OAO).
Mr. Prokhorov's exit from Polyus signals a significant shift for one of Russia's wealthiest men, who has vowed to focus more of his energy on political aspirations and less on his business ventures. Polyus represents one of the largest pieces of Mr. Prokhorov's empire, which includes a substantial stake in United Co. Rusal PLC (0486.HK), banking, energy and media holdings, as well as the Brooklyn Nets basketball team in the U.S.
For Polyus, analysts have said a sale would provide a strong boost, paving the way for a possible merger with gold and silver producer Polymetal International PLC (>> Polymetal International PLC), which was owned by Mr. Kerimov and is now partly held by businessmen close to him.
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