The Russian Federal Anti-Monopoly Service has announced it is opposed to the idea of merging Norilsk Nickel into a single metals company owned partially by the state, since this is just a scheme proposed by Russian metals tycoons struggling to pay back or refinance large debts.
‘There is no prospect in such a merger other than unloading debts to the state,‘ Alexei Ulyanov, head of the industry department at the Russian Federal Anti-Monopoly Service, told reporters on the sidelines of a metals conference.
Ulyanov said the anti-trust body might be prepared to examine a merger between Norilsk Nickel and Metalloinvest, the iron and steel company founded by billionaire Alisher Usmanov, but no such request had been forthcoming.
Usmanov has said he examined a plan to merge Metalloinvest with assets owned by state conglomerate Russian Technologies, including special steel maker RusSpetsStal.
Ulyanov said his anti-trust service was unlikely to support the purchase of large assets by RusSpetStal.
The current economic climate has shaken the protocol of nationalization that had long been the Kremlin’s standard operating procedure. For how long the can the Kremlin refuse what will assuredly be an enticing offer in months to come, and will anyone be surprised if the merger goes through?