Friday 27 June 2014

Shaft Sinkers leaps ENRC founders win legal victory

Ever heard of Aim-listed Shaft Sinkers? Neither had I until a contact pointed out that yesterday the stock leapt 20pc for no good reason.

Now, most market players tend to pin an intra-day 20pc gain on a bid rumour but I think there is a more fundamental reason for yesterday's share price gain.

International Mineral Resources (IMR) - which owns 48pc of Shaft Sinkers and is controlled by the founders of the Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) - yesterday scored a victory against EuroChem when a Dutch court threw out a case brought by the Russian fertiliser giant, accusing IMR of "blatant fraud, exacerbated by bribery".

Here is the quick backstory: EuroChem is Russia's third largest fertiliser producer controlled by the billionaire oligarch Andrei Melnichenko. The Russian company accused Shaft Sinkers and the shareholders of IMR of covering up work deficiencies and bribing a EuroChem employee after employing the South Africa-based business to dig a mine shaft at one of its multi-billion dollar Potash projects.

The dispute has been rumbling on for the past year and a half but a district court in Amsterdam, where IMR's funds had been frozen for the past year, yesterday said that EuroChem had "advanced insufficient concrete facts and circumstances" to make a case.

And the Dutch court added that EuroChem's $900m claim was unable to demonstrate that IMR had any liability for the actions of Shaft Sinkers, regardless of whether or not there had been any wrongdoing.

A spokesperson for IMR also told Reuters that: "we have always maintained that all the allegations by EuroChem were completely without foundation. This has today been reinforced by the court's decision, which cleared us on all counts, with all allegations shown to be baseless."

One of my sources reckons the real reason for the legal action brought by EuroChem was to destabilise IMR's shareholders during a tough time for their main business interest, ENRC.

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