June 2, 2017 / 9:36 AM / 5 months ago

CEO of Finnish miner Talvivaara gets suspended sentence for misleading investors

HELSINKI, June 2 (Reuters) - The founder and chief executive of troubled Finnish miner Talvivaara was handed a suspended eight month sentence on Friday after a court ruled the company gave investors unrealistic forecasts for nickel production.

The Helsinki district court said the company and CEO Pekka Pera gave investors nickel production forecasts in 2012 and 2013, which had an impact on Talvivaara’s share price, but which the court said were unlikely to be met at the time they were given.

Former executives Harri Natunen and Saila Miettinen-Lahde were given fines, while a third former executive Lassi Lammassaari received a suspended sentence of six months for misuse of insider information in connection with trades in company shares.

All four have denied any wrongdoing and said during the investigation and in court that information given to investors at all times had been based on the most accurate information available.

Talvivaara said in a statement on Friday that the company and the defendants were assessing the rulings, and were likely to appeal.

Talvivaara also said there was no reason to reassess Pera’s position as CEO in light of the court’s decision.

Talvivaara’s shares have been suspended from trading since 2014 due to a debt restructuring. The company aimed to become Europe’s biggest nickel miner by pioneering a process of using bacteria to extract nickel at its mine in northern Finland.

But production problems were compounded when the mine leaked waste water, raising the level of uranium and other metals in nearby lakes and rivers, and the company was pushed into a debt restructuring in 2013.

Last year, a local court fined Pera and Natunen for environmental damage.

State-owned Terrafame took control of the mine in 2015 in a bid to protect local jobs and the environment, and commodities trader Trafigura took a stake in the mine in February. The mine turned an operating profit in the fourth quarter of 2016, for the first time since 2011.

Talvivaara shareholders comprise about 80,000 Finnish retail investors. (Reporting by Tuomas Forsell; Editing by Jussi Rosendahl/Alexander Smith/Susan Fenton)

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