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Report Says Kerimov Could Sell Uralkali Stake

Billionaire Suleiman Kerimov may sell his stake in Uralkali, the world's largest potash miner by output, financial media reported Monday citing sources.

An offer has been made to the tycoon, who has been accused of abuse of power by Belarus following Uralkali's dissolution of a key sales alliance with Belaruskali, for his more than 20 percent stake, the Kommersant financial daily reported.

The Russian-language edition of Forbes magazine carried a similar report, leading Uralkali shares to jump 7.5 percent in early trading in Moscow to their highest in six weeks.

The reports followed a posting on Facebook on Saturday by Russian lawyer Alexander Dobrovinsky who said Kerimov had already sold a large chunk of his shares, citing a well-connected source.

Kerimov's investment vehicle, Nafta Moskva, denied Kerimov had sold his stake and declined to comment on a potential sale in the future. Uralkali, which reports quarterly results on Tuesday, declined to comment.

Uralkali shares traded at their highest since the firm quit the Russia-Belarus trading agreement in July, rocking the global potash industry and sparking a diplomatic and trade row that led to Belarus arresting Uralkali's head.

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko backs the sale, Kommersant said, citing lawyer Dobrovinsky. The paper also reported sources as saying a deal would help solve the legal issues faced by Kerimov and Uralkali's management in Belarus.

It is not known who would buy the stake or how much the deal would value the shares, which are worth about $3 billion.

However, Vladimir Evtushenkov, the owner of oil-to-telecom conglomerate Sistema, Mikhail Gutseriyev, a founder of oil firm RussNeft, and former banker Vladimir Kogan are among the potential bidders, reports said.

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