Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is still unable to secure reimbursement of the 100-million-dollar damage which the Uralkali company allegedly caused to the republic's economy, the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets writes. Uralkali Director General Vladislav Baumgertner was detained in Minsk in August and has been kept under house arrest in Belarus since.
Lukashenko suggested extraditing Baumgertner to Russia which had opened a criminal case against him on the condition that the damage to Belarus was compensated, the newspaper writes. Independent experts are confident that Lukashenko will not get any money. The conflict between Uralkai and Belaruskali has obviously deadlocked, they said.
"One hundred million dollars is not a critical sum for Uralkali, and the company could afford paying it for Baumgertner. But his guilt is not yet proven and paying at Lukashenko's demand implies acknowledging Baumgertner's culpability," Andrei Shenk, an analyst with the Investkafe independent analytical agency, said in comments.
Meanwhile, Alexander Lukashenko stated that Russian businessman Mikhail Gutseriev could buy principal shareholder Suleiman Kerimov's shares and work with Belaruskali. According to the Belarusian leader, Gutseriev had promised to consider a possible transaction. Also, Lukashenko stated that Belarus was ready to "resume joint work with Uralkali on selling potassium fertilizers." The potassium conflict therefore is likely to smolder for a while, at least until Moscow makes the final decision," Moskovsky Komsomolets notes.
The newspaper Kommersant points out that the Belarusian businesspersons Yuri and Alexei Khotin are among those wishing to buy Uralkali shares from Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov and his partners. AFK Sistema owner Vladimir Yevtushenko has confirmed his interest in the asset, while billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov would like to swap his stake in a major aluminum producer for Uralkali shares, according to unofficial reports. The newspaper says Kerimov still prices his assets well above the market value, so none of the prospective buyers has such funds.
The Uralkali sale is apparently being delayed. Kommersant experts clarified that the "principled decision on a new Uralkali shareholder has been made at the highest level." "But Kerimov has been given an opportunity to bargain, that is why he is asking a very large sum." None of the possible buyers have enough funds of their own. State-owned banks can take part in the transaction, but half of the money should come from the buyer's own coffers," a well-informed newspaper source said. The source believes the replacement of shareholder will be delayed by several months; during this time, Suleiman Kerimov might reduce the price while prospective buyers could find sources of funding.