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Norilsk plans switch to market-linked dividends

The management of PJSCMMC Norilsk Nickel asked its board to approve of a new plan that willlink the miner's dividend to its debt and earnings, allowing for payments to changein line with market conditions, Bloomberg News reported April 4, citing First DeputyCEO Pavel Fedorov.

Norilsk currently has a fixed payout ratio, with half of EBITDAoffered in annual dividends, or at least US$2 billion.

"The new dividend policy … sends the signal to the ratingagencies that the company sees keeping its debt at a relatively low level as a strategicpriority," Fedorov said.

Norilsk's stock slidby nearly 3% on rumors that it planned to switch to market-linked payouts from itsgenerous dividend policy.

Should the net debt-to-EBITDA ratio fall below 1.8, the nickelminer will pay 60% of EBITDA as an annual dividend. For ratios above 2.2, paymentswill be curbed to 30% of EBITDA.

The new policy will not affect the 2015 payout.

For the first nine months of 2015, company payouts to around 50.9 billion Russianrubles.

For this year, Norilsk will set the annual dividend to at leastUS$1.3 billion, and then at least US$1 billion through 2021.

This year's minimum amount will beexpectedly higher on expectations that the sale of the Nkomati nickel mine in Africawill close soon, Fedorov said.                                                                                                                               

As of April 4, US$1 was equivalent to 68.18 Russian rubles.