Nigeria and Rusal Settle Battle Over Aluminum Smelter Ownership

(Bloomberg) -- Nigeria reached an out-of-court settlement with United Co. Rusal Plc over the sale of the Aluminium Smelter Co. of Nigeria, ending a decade long ownership dispute over the company.

The parties agreed Alscon would resume operations in six months as part of the settlement, Kayode Fayemi, Minister of Mines and Steel Development, told reporters in Abuja, the capital. The smelter had been idled since 2012.

“We feel that apart from the legal issues, Rusal are actually best placed to be able to reactivate the plant,” Fayemi said Wednesday.

Government now owns a minority 20 percent of the smelter, Rusal 80 percent, the minister said. These numbers were disputed Thursday by Rusal whose spokesperson said the company retained 85 percent and Nigeria 15 percent. Calls to Fayemi’s office to seek a clarification were not answered.

Earlier Sale Canceled

The settlement follows a decision in September to opt for mediation after a Nigeria Supreme Court ruling in 2012 that voided the sale of Alscon to Rusal. The court ruled Nigeria’s privatization agency didn’t have the right to cancel an earlier sale of the smelter to Bancorp Financial Investment Group in 2007.

“The Alscon sale dispute is one of the long drawn ownership battles that has impacted Nigeria’s ability to stick to contracts,” said Cheta Nwanze, an analyst at Lagos-based business advisory group SBM Intelligence.

“Now that the dispute has been resolved, the smelter can return to production which will obviously have a knock-on effect on various industries in the economy,” he said.

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