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RusAl?€™s Paris Move May Prompt Peers to List

PARIS — Aluminum giant United Company RusAl's planned secondary listing on Euronext may prompt more Russian firms to list there, as well as attract investors seeking exposure to Russia and the metals market.

But French markets regulator AMF still needs to give approval to the Paris leg of the deal after RusAl raised $2.2 billion in Hong Kong on Friday.

If successful, the firm would be the first Russian company to list in Paris since the early 1900s, when French investors lost out on Russian railway stocks and government bonds, ahead of the many IPO-free years of Soviet rule.

"From an operational point of view, [RusAl] seems to be a strong company with a solid industrial business model," said Alexandre Iatrides, a Paris-based fund manager at KBL Richelieu.

He said it was a signal that Euronext wants to keep up with London on commodity-related shares, while RusAl will be one of very few big mining and metal companies traded in the euro zone.

"There's always a political risk with Russian companies. We've seen it in the past on some London-traded shares — but we shouldn't be overestimating them," Iatrides said.

A whole series of Russian groups could seek listings in the coming years, with Russian Railways looking at Hong Kong for a primary listing, just as RusAl did.

But an ongoing dispute between key RusAl owner Oleg Deripaska and Michael Cherney, known in Russia as Mikhail Chernoi, over a disputed stake in the company, as well as the uncertain influence of state-controlled Vneshekonombank, makes some uneasy.

"It is easy to underestimate the degree of political risk in the RusAl IPO," Kim Iskyan, of risk consultants Eurasia group, told Reuters Insider.

The decision to list in Paris over London may have come down to regulations, sources said, especially after Hong Kong regulators attached several conditions to RusAl's listing there.

Most metals firms opt to list in London, but a financial sector source said RusAl might have had difficulties reaching the "premium standard" listing rules of the London Stock Exchange, which are seen as being tougher than European Union standards.

Some observers say British authorities would not have allowed a London listing, although the Financial Standards Authority declined to comment on this or whether RusAl had even contacted them.

Euronext says its unified order book spanning all its trading centers — Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, Lisbon and London — and its equal treatment of domestic and foreign issuers act as selling points in the race to attract more IPOs.

Additionally, for Russian companies such as RusAl that may also list in Asia, Paris is closer to Moscow than Hong Kong, which may prove attractive to Russian investors.

A banker at a rival firm, who declined to be identified, said he did not expect many Russian firms to come to Paris.

"[RusAl] is a special case in my view because the lion's share of Russian firms will … as they have done in the past, choose a second European anchor point [besides Asia] in London. It just so happens that in this company's specific case they chose Paris due to [their own] constraints," he said. "London still remains a platform that is, for global investors in metals and mining, the leading platform in terms of market depth and direct investor presence."

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