Uralkali shareholder wants to restore potash alliance

(Photo courtesy Agrium)

Minsk | Reuters — The Belarussian businessman who last week acquired a 20 per cent stake in Russian potash producer Uralkali said on Monday it would be in everyone’s interest to restore an alliance between Uralkali and Belarus, the world’s two biggest potash miners.

Uralkali and the Belarussian Potash Co. (BPC) used to co-operate with each other, helping to manage supplies and underpin prices. This arrangement broke down in 2013, triggering a fall in world potash prices.

Russian businessman Mikhail Prokhorov’s Onexim Group sold its 20 per cent stake in Uralkali to Belarusian businessman Dmitri Lobyak last week.

Speaking by phone to Reuters, Lobyak said “Everyone has a desire (to restore the alliance between Uralkali and BPC). This would be in everyone’s interest.”

The share deal does not automatically mean the alliance is back on, because Lobyak does not control BPC, which is state-owned, and he has only a minority stake in Uralkali.

In June, Belarus agreed to sell potash to India at the lowest price in a decade and about a third less than last year’s level as global supplies of the crop nutrient exceed demand.

At the time, Uralkali said that the price offered by Minsk was too low, while the managing director of Indian Potash Ltd., the country’s biggest importer, said he expected other potash miners to offer decade-low price after that deal.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said last month that his country might co-operate with Uralkali again.

Reporting for Reuters by Andrei Makhovsky and Andrei Kuzmin, writing by Dmitry Solovyov and Katya Golubkova.

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