MOSCOW, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Russia's Norilsk Nickel has petitioned the Kremlin for a tax break worth around $500 million per year that, if granted, would help the world's top nickel and palladium miner pay dividends to its oligarch owners.
The Kommersant daily reported on Monday that Vladimir Potanin, named chief executive of Norilsk in December after an ownership restructuring, had written to President Vladimir Putin asking for metal export duties to be scrapped.
The Kremlin-backed deal to end a boardroom feud at Norilsk, hands billionaire Roman Abramovich voting control over a 20 percent stake, reducing the influence of the company's main shareholders, Potanin and rival Oleg Deripaska.
Sweetening the deal for Potanin and Deripaska, who had been locked in a boardroom feud since 2008, is a pledge for Norilsk to pay out a $9 billion in dividends over the next three years, equivalent to half its core earnings.
Norilsk spokeswoman Alisa Fialko declined to confirm the existence of the letter but said: 'The question of export tariff cancellation is being considered due to the weak metals market,' Fialko said.
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the Kremlin had not yet received any letter from Norilsk. He declined further comment.
Nickel, used in making stainless steel, was the sole loser among the six base metals last year, falling 8 percent due to a sharp drop in demand for stainless steel, particularly in Europe. The metal traded at $17,377 per tonne on Monday.
Norilsk, which gets about 90 percent of its revenue from European, Asian and North American markets, paid $779 million in export duties in 2011, its financial results show. That is above the $500 million level cited by Kommersant in Potanin's letter.
The current export tariff for Russian nickel is 5 percent, for copper 10 percent and for platinum group metals 6.5 percent.
Once the restructuring is completed, Chelsea soccer club owner Abramovich will own 5.87 percent of Norilsk Nickel, Potanin's holding company Interros 30.3 percent and Deripaska's aluminium firm RUSAL 27.8 percent.
To ensure Abramovich's role as enforcer of the peace, the other two billionaires will give him voting power over some of their shares, bringing his effective voting stake to 20 percent.
(Reporting by Polina Devitt; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Louise Heavens) Keywords: RUSSIA NORILSK/
(Polina.Devitt@thomsonreuters.com)(+7 495 775 12 42)(Reuters Messaging: email@example.com)
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