June 4, 2018 / 8:30 AM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-En+ president Sokov resigns in bid to see U.S. sanctions eased

(Adds context and quotes from Sokov, Barker)

MOSCOW, June 4 (Reuters) - En+ Group accepted president Maxim Sokov’s resignation on Monday as part of a plan to persuade the United States to lift sanctions on the company by filling its board with directors not affiliated with Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska.

Deripaska and the biggest companies in his empire, including aluminium producer Rusal and its parent holding company En+, were included in a U.S. Treasury Department sanctions blacklist in April.

Under a plan devised by En+ chairman Greg Barker, Deripaska hopes to persuade the United States to ease sanctions on his companies by scaling back his own involvement in them, an option initially suggested by Washington.

“The ‘Barker Plan’ has made significant progress in recent weeks and the decision of Mr Sokov has been made within the context of continuing the implementation phase,” the company said in a statement.

Sokov was appointed president of En+ in February after Deripaska resigned from the role. At the time, the company said Sokov would be in charge of developing the company’s long-term strategy.

“En+ is currently facing unprecedented and unforeseen challenges and I have taken the decision to step down from the company for the sake of its future prosperity,” Sokov, who has now relinquished all roles and responsibilities relating to the group, said in a statement.

The process of recruiting new directors to the En+ board is under way, the company said.

“I expect to be able to confirm the proposed candidates that we will be submitting to OFAC soon,” Barker said, referring to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which oversees sanctions.

Sokov has also resigned as non-executive director of Rusal, together with Rusal’s chief executive and six other board members, according to a filing by the company last month.

Barker told Reuters last week that Deripaska’s aluminium empire is in close contact with the U.S. Treasury, but needs until mid-summer to come up with a plan to meet U.S. requirements to escape sanctions.

Deripaska is considering having En+ buy some of his shares so that his stake falls below the controlling level, a manoeuvre he hopes will remove his firms from the U.S. sanctions list, according to three sources familiar with the discussions.

Deripaska holds a 66 percent stake in En+, the vehicle through which he exercises control over Rusal, one of the world’s biggest aluminum producers, among other businesses. (Writing by Polina Ivanova; editing by Jason Neely and Adrian Croft)

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