Rusal disputes Guinea claims of damages
Just as Rusal starts trading on the Hong Kong stock exchange today, it has also upped the ante in the escalating row with Guinea over claims that the Russian aluminium giant owes it substantial damages.
Guinea - a key source of raw materials in West Africa for Rusal - warned the stock exchange it had taken the firm to court, claiming it is owed US$860 million.
'We wanted to inform the eventual buyers and subscribers of the Hong Kong listing of the enormity of what is happening, as we feel the [Rusal] prospectus is not truly transparent about all the facts,' Mahmoud Thiam, Guinea's minister of mines, energy and hydropower, said.
Guinea also wanted Rusal to make additional disclosures in its prospectus about the dispute.
Rusal hit back strongly yesterday at Thiam's claims, saying that on January 21, a new Guinean administration was formed under Prime Minister Jean-Marie Dore, with a mandate to form a transition government, and that Thiam is no longer a Guinean government official and 'therefore does not represent the Guinean government'.
'Rusal understands that Thiam is the president of a private company, whose mission is to build a group of commodity assets in Guinea,' Rusal said in a statement.
'Apart from media reports to the contrary in Hong Kong, Rusal is not aware of any correspondence sent by Mr Thiam either to Rusal or to any of the other bodies mentioned in these reports. Rusal is currently considering legal action against Mr Thiam.'
Thiam disputed these claims and confirmed that a new government is being formed by Dore, but that 'this process is not yet complete'.
He said the process will take several more days and that he was 'continuing in his functions with the Guinean government'.
'I was exercising my functions [as Guinea's minister of mines, energy and hydropower] when I wrote the letters to the Hong Kong stock exchange,' Thiam said.
'I do not know whether I will be reappointed in the new government. But whether I am or not does not negate the facts set out in the Conakry claim by the government, and in the Alex Stewart International report.'
The Guinean government has commissioned US-based Alex Stewart International to audit Rusal's operating records, financial reports, tax payments and export declarations in Guinea and to determine whether evidence supports a Guinean government audit showing tax evasion and other alleged fraud.
Rusal said it has operated in Guinea since 2002 and is one of the key employers there. Its assets in Guinea were acquired in full compliance with Guinean law and that all its facilities remain fully operational.