MOSCOW, March 14 (Reuters) - Russia's leading gold miner Polyus Gold, backed by billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, is moving closer to gaining a long-awaited premium listing in London, under legal changes proposed by Russia's cartel office.
Gaining a London premium listing and FTSE 100 inclusion would move Polyus closer to realising its aims of merging with a rival. Prokhorov has said he wants to do a merger deal with a global miner after such a move, giving rise to speculation it may seek a deal with silver miner Polymetal.
Polyus will have to raise its free float to 25 percent from the current 14 percent to gain a premium listing -- which could see it seek to raise over $800 million. The company planned to use its treasury shares for this possible deal.
Igor Artemyev, head of the Federal Anti-Monopoly Office (FAS), said on Wednesday that firms in sectors categorised as strategic under Russian law may be allowed to place 25 percent of their stock abroad without, as currently required, having to win approval from an investment commission chaired by president-elect Vladimir Putin.
"We've put this question on the commission's agenda, and the commission will discuss various options. We think it should be 25 percent without commission approval," Artemyev was quoted by news agency Interfax as saying.
Polyus, in which Prokhorov's investment firm owns a 37 percent stake, failed to win a green light for its London listing in 2011, when the investment commission delayed a decision.
The meeting of the legal commission for foreign investment may take place at the start of April, Artemyev added.
He said that the commission might look at other options for the possible stake that can be floated abroad by strategic companies, saying "maybe they'll allow 50 percent".
Artemyev told Interfax that the commission should take action after Polyus Gold made a request for the move.
"They came and said: the law has come out and we don't know how to act, so the commission should explain this to us," he said.
Polyus' request will also be reviewed at the commission meeting in April.
Polyus is seeking to follow fellow Russian miners Polymetal and Evraz, in seeking the greater liquidity and investor exposure that comes with a full London listing. Polyus declined to comment. (Reporting by Polina Devitt,; Additional reporting by Megan Davies; Editing by Megan Davies and Mike Nesbit)