Russian magnate Deripaska to quit roles at his two biggest firms

By Polina Devitt and Anastasia Lyrchikova
FILE PHOTO: President of En+ Group, Oleg Deripaska, attends an agreement signing ceremony with the Krasnoyarsk region's government, in Moscow, Russia, December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/File Photo

By Polina Devitt and Anastasia Lyrchikova

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska plans to step down as the president of the two companies he controls - aluminium giant Rusal and En+ Group, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The change comes less than a month after the inclusion of Deripaska and dozens of Russian billionaires on a U.S. government list of Russian oligarchs. While it is not a sanctions list, Western banks may be reluctant to deal with Russian companies whose owners are on the list.

En+ has invited international banks to pitch for the sale of $1 billion (713.06 million pounds) of shares in the company, three sources told Reuters last week. However, the inclusion of Deripaska on the U.S. list is making some U.S. banks who worked with En+ on its initial public offering in November wary about participating this time, one of the sources said.

Deripaska's En+ owns assets in metals and energy, including a 48 percent stake in Rusal, a Hong Kong-listed Russian aluminium producer, which is a big consumer of hydroelectricity produced by En+'s power companies.

Deripaska has decided to relinquish direct operational control in the two companies because En+ became a publicly-listed company after its share sale in November, one of the sources told Reuters. The boards of directors of En+ and Rusal will consider the management changes at their meetings on Feb. 22, the source added.

The upcoming management re-shuffle was first reported by the Russia's Kommersant newspaper on Monday. Maxim Sokov, En+ current chief executive officer, will become En+'s president, Kommersant said.

Vladislav Soloviev, Rusal CEO, will become CEO of En+ and president of Rusal, while Rusal's current chief financial officer, Alexandra Bouriko, will be appointed Rusal CEO, one of Reuters' sources said.

Rusal and En+ declined official comment.

Most metal sector analysts saw the news as neutral for Rusal and En+ given that a succession plan has already been lined up, drawing on existing company managers, which should ensure continuity.

But some analysts questioned the timing of Deripaska stepping down.

Rusal owns a stake in Norilsk Nickel, and a power struggle over the nickel producer resurfaced on Friday. Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin has offered to buy the $1.5 billion stake in the mining group held by Roman Abramovich, owner of the Chelsea soccer club. Deripaska tried to block the deal.

"The timing looks a bit strange, coinciding with the resumption of the shareholder conflict at Norilsk Nickel," analysts at Aton said in a note.

(Reporting by Polina Devitt and Anastasia Lyrchikova; editing by David Evans)

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