Russian targets 10 per cent of Corus

Alisher Usmanov, the Russian metals entrepreneur, has amassed a $100m (£63m) war chest in order to double his stake in the steel firm Corus.

The businessman controls iron ore and steel production plants in the Ural mountains in Russia and is close to Lord Owen, the former foreign secretary. He has been steadily buying shares in Corus and now owns nearly 7 per cent of the company, worth £66m, through a Cyprus-based vehicle, Gallagher Holdings.

Earlier this month, Mr Usmanov told the US Securities and Exchange Commission that he has arranged a $100m credit line purely for the "purchase of securities and derivative financial instruments issued by Corus".

Mr Usmanov has already used a chunk of the money but still has enough to boost his stake to 10 per cent at the current market price. This could get him a seat on the board if he insisted. At 30.25p, the shares are at a seven-month high.

Mr Usmanov is understood not to be seeking to force himself on to the board of directors and to have confidence in the new management team, led by chief executive Philippe Varin and installed after a series of calamities at the company.

In an interview with The Independent on Sunday, Mr Usmanov said he would buy shares in Corus according to market conditions, adding that he had the ability to extend his $100m loan. He was interested in selling his steel to Corus "to reduce their costs," he said.

Like many Russian businessmen, he has an interesting past. He was convicted of fraud in the Ukraine in the Soviet era, although the charges were thrown out in 2000. He is also a director of a division of Gazprom, the Russian energy giant.

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