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Russian billionaires take boardroom battle to London High Court

Reuters  |  LONDON 

By Barbara Lewis

LONDON (Reuters) - tycoon gave evidence in the on Monday in a case challenging the sale of shares in (Nornickel) by soccer club owner

Deripaska, making his first public appearance since being made a target of U.S. sanctions, wants to stop Abramovich selling shares to another Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin, saying it violates a 2012 shareholder deal.

The hearing, which is expected to last four days, is part of a long-running battle for control of the firm, one of the world's biggest producers of nickel.

Deripaska, the co-owner of En+ and <0486.HK> that have also been targeted by U.S. sanctions, told the court he was "quite upset that Rusal's interests could be seriously damaged" when asked about discussions with

Deripaska, who was dressed in a dark blue suit and tie, spoke to the court in Russian via an

Deripaska and have periodically been at loggerheads since bought a stake in just before the 2008 global financial crash. Court documents said Deripaska and disagreed on how should be run.

Potanin's Holding said in March it had completed the purchase from Abramovich of a 2 percent stake in Nornickel, a deal that could be reversed if the London court rules in favour of

Before purchasing the additional 2 percent, Potanin had 30.4 percent of Nornickel, against Rusal's 27.8 percent stake.

Nornickel is a $27.68 billion company that competes with Brazil's Vale for the rank of the world's top It is also the world's largest

Abramovich, who also owns England's Chelsea football club, stepped in as a "white knight" minority shareholder in 2012 to act as a buffer between Potanin and Deripaska.

He and his partners have a stake in Nornickel amounting to 6.3 percent, including 4.2 percent that is owned via a Cyprus-based company called Crispian.

The deal involved a five-year lock-up period, which the court heard was intended to be long enough to "build trust". During that period, the parties were barred from selling most of their Nornickel stakes.

Deripaska was ranked Russia's 19th richest man worth $6.7 billion by magazine before imposed sanctions in April on him, as well as on Rusal and En+, in response to what the called Russia's "malign activities".

Potanin is expected to appear before the court on Tuesday.

The hearing is due to last until Thursday, after which further written submissions are expected.

After that, legal sources said the could take about two weeks to deliver his judgment.

($1 = 61.7885 roubles)

(Reporting by in London and Polina Devitt in Moscow; Editing by Edmund Blair)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, May 15 2018. 01:21 IST