Belarus officials have announced plans to extradite OAO Uralkali’s CEO to Moscow as a dispute between the Russian potash titan and its ex-Belarusian partners, who had cornered 40% of global production, nears resolution. The $22 billion market has been roiled since Uralkali quit the venture in August and global shares collapsed; Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, citing a currency collapse and foreign debt, jailed Vladislav Baumgartner in response.
The promised return of the CEO to Moscow comes just after billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov’s Moscow-based Onexim Group bought a 21.75% stake in the company from chief shareholder Suleiman Kerimov worth $3.5 billion. The move was a precondition for any revival by Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, who also insisted Baumgartner face charges in Russia.
Uralkali officials denied there have been renewed talks with Belarus to date to reassert control over the world’s supply of the mineral crop nutrient. “It is useless for us to have been thinking about Belarus when our feeling has been they kidnapped our boss,” Uralkali independent director, Paul Ostling, told The Wall Street Journal.
Onexim, for its part, has a strong reputation and is well-placed to oversee Uralkali corporate governance, according to analysts. “We are certain the potash industry has strong fundamentals,” Onexim CEO Dmitry Razumov said in a statement quoted by Bloomberg News.
The 48-year-old Prokhorov, whose net worth is estimated at $13 billion, also holds 17% of Rusal, a top aluminum producer, and has owned past investments in GMK Norilsk Nickel and a 40% stake in Polyus Gold International Ltd. for $3.62 billion. Prokhorov, a co-owner of the Brooklyn Nets basketball team, also ran for president against the incumbent Vladimir Putin last year, but gained only 8% of the vote.