Aluminium was one of the original businesses which Masoud Alikhani injected into MiddleSex when he joined in 1993. The aluminium business was built upon Mr. Alikhani’s trading relationship with Tadaz, the third largest aluminum smelter in the world, located in Tajikistan. Historically, the relationship with Tadaz was that MiddleSex would supply the aluminium; it would pre-finance the processing and in return it would receive the aluminium which it would then sell in the international markets. The relationship worked profitably. However, throughout 1996, the political situation in Tajikistan deteriorated, trading cycles became longer and no deliveries were made in the last six months of 1996, leaving MiddleSex owned some US7.9m(£ 4.6m). MiddleSex believes it will recover this debt: it has already received US$2.4m(£ 1.5m) in late June 1997. Negotiations are well advanced to collect the balance. During 1996 MiddleSex diversified its non-ferrous business into nickel. In October 1996 it entered into a short-term pilot contract with Napo Invest and Trade Corp., a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands and run by Mr. Yuri Murkin, a business associate of Mr. Alikhani, and two Russian companies: Koks, which owns the Kemerovo coke plants and Kombinat Yuzhuralnikel, one of the biggest Russian nickel producers. The government recently sold its 38% in troubled Norilsk Nickel, the biggest but also heavily debt-ridden Russian nickel producer. Following the Norilsk example, Yuzhuralnikel could be the next to be auctioned. Interfin, MiddleSex’s 40% owned investment, has already secured a 14.7% interest in the Yuzhuralnikel nickel plant, which gives MiddleSex a 5.9% indirect interest. Overall I believe that MiddleSex is in strong position if it decodes to increase its interest in Yuzhuralnikel and therefore its Yuzhuralnikel exposure to nickel. However, I have assumed that MiddleSex will only extend the trading with Yuzhuralnikel.
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