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Russia's RDIF in talks over control of Sistema's retail, power assets: sources

Reuters  |  MOSCOW 

By Voronova and Vladimir Soldatkin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian conglomerate Sistema, which has to make a big payment to to settle a business dispute, is in talks with one of the country's sovereign wealth funds about transferring two of its companies, sources said on Friday.

The negotiations concern the possibility of the state-owned (RDIF) taking over control of two retail and power businesses from Sistema, a banking source and a source close to the conglomerate told

Asked by for comment, said it had no plans to take over the assets, and said it was not planning to transfer the to the fund.

The dispute centred on company Bashneft, pitting Rosneft's chief executive Igor Sechin, a close ally of Vladimir Putin, against owner Vladimir Yevtushenkov, a billionaire who some Russian suggest is close to

Under the settlement announced last month, has to pay 100 billion roubles ($1.8 billion) by March 30 and has agreed to lend 40 billion roubles. Russia's largest lender will also help to raise funds before the deadline.

put up two of its assets, and the Bashkirian Power Grid Company, as collateral against the loan.

The talks centre on the possible transfer of these firms to the fund.

"The parties have been in discussion over the terms and the deal structure," a banking source said.

Another source, close to Sistema, confirmed that such talks have been under way and that the terms of the deal have not yet been agreed. It was not clear whether they would include any cash payments to or it would be non-cash transaction.

said in the emailed comments that the fund did not plan to acquire or in any way "gain control" over the "acts as the arranger of the 40 billion-rouble-financing secured by these assets, as it was set in the amicable agreement," the fund said.

Sistema's said that the company was not considering transferring control over and to

The RDIF's possible acquisition of the would mark a boost for the fund, which is headed by ex- RDIF, which manages capital of $10 billion, was launched in 2011 with the aim of attracting foreign investments to

The dispute over is part of a larger tussle for influence within Russia's ruling elite, according to three sources close to the Kremlin and the Russian government, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

One on side is a camp, including Sechin, which wants the state to have a powerful role in the economy and which has ties to the security forces, according to one of the sources.

On the other side is a loose coalition of Sechin opponents made up of self-made tycoons, economic liberals and others who bear grievances against Sechin for a variety of reasons, the source said.

Putin, who is running for re-election in March, has in the past tried to maintain a balance of power between the two camps. But under the constitution he can serve only one more six year term, and the prospect of his leaving the scene has intensified jockeying over who will succeed him, according to two Western diplomats.

It was not clear what, if any, side the state investment fund is taking in the dispute between and

boss Dmitriev is close to Putin's inner circle but is not seen in Russian business circles as a loyal to any particular

representatives have in the past repeatedly denied that Sechin's actions are part of any political intrigue, saying he is only pursuing the interests of and its main shareholder, the Russian state.

($1 = 56.5008 roubles)

(Reporting by Voronova and Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by Katya Golubkova and David Stamp)

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, January 12 2018. 23:03 IST