Russian investor takes Corus stake

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The Independent Online

Corus, the loss-making steel producer, is in talks to buy raw materials from a mysterious Russian investor who has built up a 5 per cent stake in the company, it emerged yesterday.

Sir Brian Moffat, the much-criticised chairman of the Anglo-Dutch company, told MPs that Corus had held discussions with the investor, Alisher Usmanov, and also other Russian businessman about sourcing materials such as coke and iron ore. "If we can find cheaper sources of supply, then we are definitely interested. We will pursue that very vigorously," he told the Commons Trade and Industry Select Committee. He denied, however, that Corus was interested in sourcing steel slab from Russia.

The 5 per cent stake held by Mr Usmanov, who is based in Cyprus, has been built up since March but has only been made public in the past few days in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. He has indicated an interest in increasing his shareholding.

Sir Brian, who retires from Corus at the end of this month, received a rough ride from MPs who demanded to know why the company had done so badly when its European competitors had fared so much better. One member of the committee asked Sir Brian how he felt about retiring on a £300,000-a-year pension after presiding over a 98 per cent fall in the share price, 12,000 job losses and a £458m financial loss. Sir Brian replied: "As far as my personal affairs are concerned I would prefer they are kept personal."

Alan Johnson, the Industry Minister, later told the MPs that there was no question of the Government bailing out Corus. "We will do whatever we can that is meaningful, legal and allowable. The days are long gone when the way to deal with these problems was to throw money at them. There is no special pouch of fairy dust that will protect Corus from the global market."