Usmanov scraps move to get seat on Corus board

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The Independent Online

The Russian entrepreneur Alisher Usmanov last night abandoned his attempts to secure a seat on the board of the troubled Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus for the time being.

The Russian entrepreneur Alisher Usmanov last night abandoned his attempts to secure a seat on the board of the troubled Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus for the time being.

Mr Usmanov, the second biggest shareholder in Corus with a 13.4 per cent stake, said he had decided not to put forward a resolution at today's annual meeting of Corus calling for the nomination of a former Hoogovens executive, Adrianus van der Velden, as a director of the company.

A spokesman for Mr Usmanov's holding company Gallagher stressed, however, that this amounted to a postponement of his attempts to win board representation at Corus. "Gallagher will continue to discuss Mr van der Velden's candidacy with the company and other shareholders and expects to revisit the matter," he said.

The surprise withdrawal of Mr van der Velden's nomination came after it became clear that Mr Usmanov and Gallagher would lose the vote had the issue been put to shareholders today. Gallagher said extensive consultations with other shareholders had established that, while some were supportive of the proposal, they needed more time to assess the merits of Mr van der Velden's candidacy.

Mr Usmanov stressed that Gallagher still had "substantial concerns" in relation to Corus. Farhad Moshiri, his UK representative, said: "The board should understand the extent of our concern at the strategic direction of the company and the lack of progress. We know these concerns to be shared by other shareholders. Against the backdrop of the strongest steel market in a decade, the company has continued to report substantial losses. The board is now on notice and we expect real change in the months ahead."

Earlier the steelworkers' union, the ISTC, and the shareholder action group Pirc called on shareholders to veto Mr Usmanov's "destabilising" attempt to "ambush" the board by securing the nomination of a director to represent him. Mr Usmanov was said to be pressing Corus to allow him to become a raw material supplier.

Brandes, the company's biggest shareholder, had already come out in support of the board as had Standard Life, and Corus was confident any resolution put to the meeting by Gallagher could be defeated by the company's chairman Jim Leng, using the proxy votes entrusted to him by institutional shareholders.

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