Nornickel's plan to cut dividends needs scrutiny - shareholder EN+
By Pratima Desai and Veronica Brown
LONDON, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Norilsk Nickel's GMKN.MM plan to reduce dividends to fund investments to boost output and cut emissions requires scrutiny as dependable payouts are critical for shareholders, major stakeholder EN+ told Reuters on Tuesday.
Norilsk Nickel, a major nickel and palladium producer, said on Monday that it would cut dividends in 2023-2025 as the Russian company's annual capital expenditure peaks at $3.5-$4 billion in 2022-2025.
London-listed EN+ ENPLq.L owns nearly 28% of Nornickel through its shareholding in aluminium giant Rusal 0486.HK.
"Like any major capex project it needs proper scrutiny, it needs to be rigorous and it needs to be transparent. However, we are also a shareholder...we see the importance of continued reliable dividends," EN+ Chairman Greg Barker said in an interview with Reuters.
"We are in favour of investing in any initiative that will reduce the pollution footprint of Norilsk Nickel."
Rusal, the world's largest aluminium producer outside China, and En+ have long been supported by dividends from Nornickel during times of weak aluminium prices.
Barker said "we have adequate representation on Nornickel's board via Rusal" and the company was "ready to engage and discuss sensibly" Nornickel's proposals.
Nornickel's environment project costing $3.5 billion is focused on the Arctic city of Norilsk, which has been the world's top individual emitter of sulphur dioxide.
Nornickel Vice President Sergey Dubovitsky said at an investor briefing in London on Monday that dividends would remain in line with a shareholder agreement until it expires in 2022.
Norilsk currently pays out 60% of core earnings known as EBITDA if the company's net debt to EBITDA ratio is below 1.8. The payout declines on a sliding scale if the ratio is 1.8 or above, falling to 30% of EBITDA if the ratio is above 2.2.
(Reporting by Pratima Desai and Veronica Brown; editing by Susan Fenton)
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