The deal on VEB's sale of a 20% stake in Acron's structure of the Verkhnekamsk Potash Company (VKK) took an unexpected turn. As a result of the June auction, the winner was Raiffeisenbank, which offered 10.6 billion rubles. But it turned out that as a result, Sberbank Investments LLC used the preemptive right of redemption, doubling its stake. Experts, however, do not see in the situation of intrigue, calling the deal a form of lending to Acron against the backdrop of a protracted crisis in the fertilizer market.
On August 10, Vnesheconombank ceased to be the owner of a 20% share minus one share of the operator of the Talitsky potassium and magnesium deposit development in the Perm Region, ZAO Verkhnekamsk Potash Company (VKK, part of Acron). The deal in the market did not surprise anyone: the bank had long intended to sell the package and held an auction in mid-June. Its winner was recognized by Raiffeisenbank, the total value of securities was only 20 million rubles. Above the starting line - 10.62 billion rubles. (VEB itself paid in 2012 for a package of 6.7 billion rubles.) Also, Acron participated in the auction (owns 60.1% of the shares of the CWC). But the company took one step and did not use its preemptive right of redemption.
As a result, Sberbank Investments unexpectedly bought back the structure of Sberbank. "The group of Sberbank used the preemptive right as an active shareholder of the WCC," the bank explained to Kommersant. Before that, he owned 19.99%, that is, Sberbank doubled its stake. But shifting the package from the bank to the bank still does not solve the main problem of Talitsky site development with total investments of $ 1.8-2 billion - lack of financing.
In order to attract investments, Acron sold in 2012 for 12.8 billion rubles. 38% of the WCC to Raiffeisenbank (8.95%), VEB (20% minus one share) and the Eurasian Development Bank (9.1%). But the banks did not want to invest money in the project or at least provide soft loans to the company and gradually resold their packages. So, Raiffeisenbank increased its stake to 10.95%, but at the end of 2013 sold shares to Akron for 4.17 billion rubles. That in turn in February 2014 re-sold 19.9% of the VKK "Sberbank Investments" for 6.67 billion rubles. Why Raiffeisenbank again wanted to enter the capital of the operator of the Talitsky site, they did not explain it.
74% of its price lost potassium from 2013
Oleg Petropavlovski from BCS notes that in such a turn of events there is nothing surprising and the deal should be considered a kind of loan. "The bank buys the package, knowing that Acron is obliged to buy it back at a higher price," the expert says. "So now the bank has simply decided to place its money in this form and will receive interest on the sale." He doubts that, against the backdrop of the current situation on the mineral fertilizer market, Acron will be able to attract a real investor to its potash project.
The potash market is at a multi-year low for the last three years, since in 2013, the former partners of Uralkali and Belaruskali broke off trade cooperation. The situation was aggravated by the global financial crisis. Because of this, the launch of the Talitsky site was postponed from the initial year of 2018 to 2023 with a full capacity of 2 million tons of potassium in 2025. To complete the project, Acron needs to find about $ 1.2 billion more.
But even if the company receives funding, there is a question of marketing. "All fertilizer markets are now in a very large overproduction," says Mr. Petropavlovski. In his opinion, the volumes from the Talitsky site will not be in demand amid an earlier release to the EuroChem market (it will launch the Gremyachinskoye field in the Volgograd region in 2018) and projects in the CIS. "In the next 20 years, Acron is unlikely to start commercial production of potassium in the Talitsky area," he said. The market is recovering very slowly. So, at the end of July, Uralkali signed a contract with China for $ 230 per ton before the end of the year, which is 5% higher than the level of the previous contract, while in 2013 prices were about $ 400 per ton. According to experts, the slow recovery will continue for many more years.