Russian mining company Norilsk Nickel, also known as Nornickel, has announced plans to create a new employee incentive scheme. The move follows a commitment by the company’s largest shareholder, Vladimir Potanin, to increase employee ownership. Potanin said in September 2022 that the company planned to increase the shareholding of employees and other individuals to 25% of the company, up from 10% at the time.
Under the latest plan, a company called Digital Assets LLC will buy up to 0.27% of Nornickel’s share capital, worth about 6.3 billion roubles ($77.3 million). Digital Assets will acquire no more than 407,344 ordinary shares in Nornickel between 1 May 2023 and 31 December 2023. The shares will then be distributed by Digital Assets issuing tokens, called MineTokens, for the value of the shares in question, which will be equal to Nornickel’s share price on the Moscow Exchange and will allow holders to receive dividends.
Employees who have been with Nornickel for more than one year will receive between two and 10 tokens, depending on their seniority. The programme includes a one-year lock-up period during which the tokens cannot be sold, with redemption possible after five years.
Nornickel did not give a reason for choosing digital tokens over shares or options, but Potanin has previously touted the “era of tokenisation” and his Interros Holding is an investor in Russian blockchain company Atomyze, which has regulatory approval to exchange digital assets.
“This is a pilot project and if employees are interested in this instrument, a continuation of the programme may be considered,” a Nornickel representative said.
When Nornickel was privatised during the post-Soviet break-up of Russian industry in the 1990s, employees owned about 25% of the shares.
Daria Kryachkova, Nornickel’s vice-president for human resources, said: “The launch of the first minetoken is an important step in the development of our innovative corporate programme for employees, Digital Investor. The programme is gaining momentum and the first employee participants have already successfully applied for a DFA. The implementation of the first phase of the programme will allow our employees to feel part of a great cause, learn about a new financial instrument and participate in the success of the company, ultimately receiving additional income from profits or growth in shareholder value.
The Digital Investor programme will enable employees to become beneficiaries of the company. In this way, Nornickel not only continues to support its employees, but also invites them to share in the company’s success. “Digital Investor enables employees to learn the mechanics of modern investing and the basics of digital and financial literacy, thus investing in their development. For Nornickel, this is an important part of the company’s wider human capital development programme.”