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Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska retreats under US sanctions

Shares in firms controlled by Oleg Deripaska have plunged after the US imposed sanctions on seven Russian oligarchs.

Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska

Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska is loosening control of two of his companies that have been hit by US sanctions against Russia.

He agreed to sell down his majority ownership in EN+ Group PLC, the UK-listed holding company that owns 48 percent of aluminium giant United Company Rusal.

This move by Deripaska could help Rusal and EN+ escape US Treasury sanctions.

Deripaska was among a handful of Russian tycoons and corporate assets targeted in the latest US sanctions.

The measures affect seven oligarchs, 12 companies they own or control, as well as 17 senior Russian government officials.

Rusal produces seven percent of the world's aluminium, according to the US Treasury. The imposed sanctions caused aluminium prices to spike dramatically and sent Rusal's shares crashing 57 percent in Hong Kong, where the company is listed.

EN+, the largest shareholder in Rusal, has lost 50 percent of its value. At the end of last year, Deripaska owned more than 76 percent of EN+, according to Rusal's annual report.

EN+ raised $1.5bn from international investors when it went public in a first initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange in November 2017.

The IPO was the largest Russian listing since 2012. The company's chairman, Lord Barker, is a former UK climate change minister who now sits in the House of Lords.

Earlier this week, the US Treasury Department said it would consider easing the sanctions on Rusal if Deripaska divests.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also said that the US would extend the deadline for companies that do business with Rusal to untangle themselves from the company. They have until October 23.

The sanctions effectively prohibit most firms with any US businesses from dealing with Rusal.

Rusal is world's second-largest aluminium producer after China's Hongqiao and was the second-biggest supplier of aluminium to the US market after Canada.

Analysts worry that US consumers will pay for this as domestic producers and other exporters raise prices.

Additionally, the US also imposed tariffs on steel and aluminium imports that target China earlier this month.

Alongside Deripaska, others targeted by US sanctions appeared to be a selection of people picked from various groups around the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, the option of Rusal's nationalisation due to the company's hurdles is currently not under consideration.

He also added that Rusal's owners have not voiced any related proposals.

"No, the option is not under consideration. The cabinet of ministers is tackling issues related to rescue of companies facing illegal restrictions imposed by a number of countries, including the US, at president's request.

"No decisions have been made, various options are under consideration," Peskov said on Saturday.

The list of oligarchs affected by the US sanctions includes Suleiman Kerimov, a senator whose family owns Polyus, Russia's largest gold producer, Viktor Vekselberg, who owns Switzerland-based Sulzer, an engineering group, and Alexei Miller, the chief executive of state-owned gas export monopoly Gazprom.


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