LONDON – Norilsk Nickel Africa will press ahead with a lawsuit against Botswana over a failed $271-million deal to sell a 50% stake in its Nkomati nickel mine even though the government is still trying to raise the funds, its CEO has told Reuters.
"From our point of view the government failed to meet its obligations. To at the end of the deal to fail to pay the deal price is simply unacceptable," CE Michael Marriott said.
Norilsk said the sale of the stake in the Nkomati mine, its last remaining African asset, was concluded in September 2016 after numerous assurances from the Botswana government that it could afford the transaction.
A month later, the state-backed buyer, BCL Group, filed for provisional liquidation.
Norilsk is awaiting a Botswana court ruling before arbitration on the matter can begin in London.
At the same time, Botswana is seeking to sell the three companies under state-owned BCL to Emirates Investment House (EIH).
Botswana's mines minister told Reuters last week that if the funds raised from a sale to EIH are enough, the government would pay off Norilsk and end its legal dispute with the Russian company.
Norilsk would like "its fair share from the transaction", Norilsk's Marriott told Reuters.
"In some quarters they might call it a white knight coming in to save the business," he said, but added that Norilsk's lawsuit against the government would go ahead.
Norilsk sold its African assets to focus more on its mines in Russia as part of a company-wide shake-up to deal with low nickel prices.