• Hong Kong stock exchange blocks long-awaited IPO
• Delay comes as blow to oligarch owner Oleg Deripaska
Rusal, the world's largest aluminium producer, suffered a humiliating setback today after it was forced to delay its long-awaited $3bn (£1.8bn) share flotation on the Hong Kong stock exchange.
In a blow to Rusal's billionaire owner, Oleg Deripaska, Hong Kong's listing committee said today that it was not satisfied with the company's flotation plans. "Based on the company-provided information, the listing committee has not approved the deal ... until the firm can fulfil some conditions," a source confirmed today, according to Reuters.
Deripaska has been struggling to restructure Rusal's massive, complex debts against the backdrop of Russia's economic woes. Once Russia's richest man, he is the most high-profile oligarch victim of the financial crisis.
Rusal has little choice but to delay its initial public offering (IPO) until the spring. Last night, Russian banking sources close to the IPO plans said the company would not rush to carry out a flotation given that aluminium prices were rising, with prices currently at $2,116 a tonne and expected to hit $2,500 by the first quarter of 2010.
Deripaska has been seeking to float his aluminium empire for several years. In April 2008, he indicated that he would prefer to hold an IPO in Hong Kong rather than London, but denied suggestions that he was snubbing the London Stock Exchange because of the long-running political feud between the UK and Russia.
The economic crisis wiped 60% off the metal's value and left Rusal fending off numerous international creditors. Lenders have agreed to extend the length of repayments on money owed by the company, in what has been a protracted and complicated refinancing of $16.8bn of debt involving 72 international banks.
Despite the crisis, Deripaska can still count on his friendship with Vladimir Putin, Russia's powerful prime minister. Russia's state-owned VEB bank, which has Putin as chairman of its supervisory board, has indicated that it plans to take a $670m "cornerstone" stake when Rusal finally floats. Rusal has also marketed its share offering to Chinese investors.
Deripaska also faces other difficulties. They include a legal challenge in the UK high court from former business associate, Michael Cherney. Cherney, a former business associate, claims he is the beneficial owner of 20% of Rusal's stock that, he alleges, Deripaska held in trust for him. Deripaska denies the claim. Today the head of VEB, Vladimir Dmitriyev, played down legal risks from the Cherney case.
The delay is the latest setback for IPO plans by a company in Europe, where the market for company flotations remains lacklustre compared with some other regions. Earlier this month, German builder Hochtief AG pulled the public listing of its Concessions unit, although some IPOs have succeeded.
Copyright Speakers Corner 2016