Tycoon Kerimov cornered in Russia-Belarus potash row

Thu Sep 12, 2013 9:37am EDT
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* Collapse of potash cartel triggers cross-border feud

* Speculation Kerimov will sell Uralkali stake

* Putin's reticence signals loss of Kremlin support

By Megan Davies and Polina Devitt

MOSCOW, Sept 12 (Reuters) - Russian tycoon Suleiman Kerimov built his multi-billion-dollar fortune with an appetite for risk, debt and excellent political connections.

Yet there are signs that the secretive mining tycoon has used up his credit with President Vladimir Putin, who exerts a tight grip over the strategic natural resources that fuel Russia's $2 trillion economy.

The 47-year-old from Dagestan has found himself in a tight spot after his company Uralkali pulled out of a potash cartel with Belarus in July, upsetting the market and infuriating a close - if difficult - ex-Soviet ally.

He might have been betting a lower price would force his rivals out of business so Uralkali could gain market share and then charge a higher price for the fertiliser ingredient, with the blessing of the Kremlin.

But if that was the strategy, it appears to have backfired. The company's CEO was arrested in Belarus for abuse of power, sparking speculation that Kerimov has come under pressure to sell his $3.5 billion stake in the world's top potash producer.   Continued...