Mikhail Prokhorov, the billionaire owner of the Brooklyn Nets basketball team, is weighing acquiring a stake in Russia’s fourth-largest insurer, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Prokhorov’s Onexim Group has considered making an offer for shares in OAO RESO-Garantia Insurance Co. since at least April, when bankers first proposed the idea, said the people, who requested anonymity because the talks are preliminary and confidential. Onexim controls shares in Russian companies including United Co. Rusal, the world’s largest aluminum producer, and Polyus Gold International Ltd. (PGIL), the country’s biggest producer of the metal.
Prokhorov may combine the Soglasie Insurance Co. he controls with RESO to partly fund the acquisition, or swap some or all of his 17 percent stake in Rusal, according to the people.
RESO is controlled by billionaire brothers Sergei and Nikolay Sarkisov, who hold a combined 54 percent of the company. Axa SA (CS), based in Paris, bought 37 percent of RESO in 2008 for 810 million euros ($1.05 billion), according to Axa’s website. Other RESO shareholders include the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development.
Axa had an option to buy a controlling stake in RESO that expired last year, Emmanuel Touzeau, a spokesman, said by phone. He declined to comment on a possible deal involving Onexim, as did Richard Wallis, a Moscow-based spokesman for EBRD.
“We constantly consider strategic opportunities to develop all of our businesses, including our insurance business, and we regularly speak to different players,” Onexim Chief Executive Officer Dmitry Razumov said by e-mail. “We do not have any agreements concerning Soglasie with anyone at this time,” he said, declining to elaborate.
Nikolay Sarkisov declined to comment, as did RESO Group CEO Andrey Saveliev.
RESO may be valued at as much as $2.4 billion, said Pavel Samiev, deputy director of Expert RA, a Moscow-based ratings company.
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