Aluminium sale 'nets Abramovich £1.8bn'

Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire who recently bought Chelsea football club, has sold his stake in the country's top aluminium company Russian Aluminium (RusAl) to his partner, according to local press reports.

The move would be more evidence of Mr Abramovich cashing out of Russia, where he made his fortune. It is thought that the 50 per cent stake RusAl is his last major holding in Russia. Over the summer, the Kremlin appeared to begin a campaign against the country's super-rich "oligarchs" centred on the interests of the Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who heads the oil major Yukos.

According to a Russian press report, Mr Abramovich's investment vehicle Millhouse Capital has sold its 50 per cent stake in RusAl to Basic Element, which owns the other half of RusAl, for £1.8bn. Basic Element is controlled by another Russian tycoon, Oleg Deripaska. Neither party would comment.

In March, Mr Abramovich sold off his 26 per cent share in national airline Aeroflot. He is also the dominant shareholder in the oil company Sibneft, which is being sold to Mr Khodorkovsky's Yukos.

In August, Mr Abramovich said he might sell some Russian assets, but dismissed rumours he planned to pull out of the country altogether. "We are selling some things and buying other things. I don't feel like doing business outside Russia," he said.

Commentators said that if someone as well-connected as Mr Abramovich was winding up his activities in Russia, it was a sign of real fear among the country's business elite.