MOSCOW, March 29 (Reuters) - A proposal by Nornickel
to distribute its 50% stake in the Bystrinsky copper
mine among its own shareholders may ease dividend discussions
between the Russian metal producer's two co-owners, analysts
Nornickel said last week that the spin-off of the mine near
the Russia-China border would happen within two years subject to
regulatory and other approvals. Its major shareholders - Rusal
with a 27.8% stake and Interros with 34.6% - support
"We see the potential spin-off as a bargaining chip in
discussions among Nornickel's main shareholders about its
dividend policy," analysts at Sova Capital said in a note on
Nornickel's board is due to meet on Monday to discuss its
dividend policy, which is set under an agreement between
Interros, controlled by businessman and Nornickel chief
executive Vladimir Potanin, and aluminium producer Rusal, which
relies on Nornickel's dividend payments in difficult years.
Interros and Rusal have a long history of debate over the
dividend policy, with Potanin's company currently proposing
lower payouts to help fund planned investment.
The Bystrinsky spin-off is the first compromise on a major
deal between Nornickel's majority shareholders since at least
2013, VTB Capital said. This "might be supportive for sentiment
ahead of" Nornickel's Monday board meeting, it added.
Rusal said in a statement on Monday that if the spin-off
happens, it would get 14% of the new company which it may then
sell to Potanin for $570 million.
Interros confirmed that preliminary arrangement, but
declined to comment to Reuters on whether the timing of the
spin-off plan was related to dividend discussions.
The Bystrinsky mine produces concentrates of copper, gold
and iron ore, and is separate from Nornickel's main production
in the Arctic.
VTB Capital added that the spin-off may be the first major
step towards Bystrinsky's initial public offering, something
Nornickel has been considering for years after spinning off its
gold assets in 2006 to creating Polyus, Russia's
largest gold producer.
(Reporting by Polina Devitt and Anastasia Lyrchikova; editing
by Kirsten Donovan)