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By John Helmer in Moscow

In signals issued just ahead of today’s scheduled meeting of the Hong Kong Exchange Listing Committee, the committee announced a further postponement of its ruling on the Rusal application until December 7. The exchange has issued no public explanation. Media reports claim the reason is that the 28-member committee lacked the minimum required forum of 5 members to sit on the Rusal review. Earlier reports from the exchange had indicated that 8 members had been selected from the 28-member complement for the review. Today’s reports from Hong Kong suggest that 4 of these had dropped out for today’s meeting. The hint is that the applicant and its underwriters are being discreetly invited to take the initiative of withdrawing before next Monday, relieving the exchange of the responsibility of casting a vote on Rusal’s application. This option allows what one underwriter in London suggests as justification — market demand so late in the year is not sufficiently favourable for the share sale.

In parallel, in Moscow on December 2, the state savings bank, Sberbank, one of the underwriters of the listing, signaled that non-government demand for Rusal shares is so weak at this point, it may join Vnesheconombank (VEB) in buying shares, if noone else will. “We will probably take part in the IPO”, Reuters reported the Sberbank chairman German Gref, as saying in an off-the-cuff remark to reporters. “The company is stable, its market capitalisation will rise. It is interesting from an investor’s point of view…”

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