Controversial FTSE-100 mining giant ENRC is in advanced talks to split off its African division which was at the heart of a bitter battle over the way it bought a lucrative mine in a deal involving the secretive tycoon Dan Gertler.
If it goes ahead with the deal, ENRC would put its African business into a separate UK stock market-quoted company known as ENRC International. The main business in Kazakhstan would continue as the rump ENRC.
The African business was boosted by the takeover of a stake in a mine in the Congo which had been seized from a Canadian operator in dubious circumstances by the governmentof Joseph Kabila. Mr Kabila sold it to his friend Mr Gertler, who in turn sold it on at a huge profit to ENRC. Canada's First Quantum mining group was furious and launched a legal battle which led to a $1.25bn settlement in January.
The company's reputation received a further battering last year when two City veterans – Sir Richard Sykes and Ken Olisa – were ejected from the board.
The ENRC shareholder Standard Life ditched its shares in disgust at the way the company – 44 per cent controlled by three Kazakh billionaires – behaved.
However, the new chairman, Mehmet Dalman, says he wants to clean up the business and improve its image.
The demerger, being plotted with the advice of the investment banks Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley, is hoped to increase the value of both sides of the business for shareholders.
ENRC International would also include businesses in Brazil and Mozambique. The company wants to buy the remaining stake in the Congo mine still held by Mr Gertler, who has made himself a billionaire by striking close business ties with rising African leaders.