* Group led by Alexander Katunin
* Takes 50 percent plus 2 shares in ISD (Adds background)
KIEV, Jan 8 (Reuters) - A Russian-led group has bought control of one of Ukraine’s largest steel groups, Industrial Union of Donbass (ISD), Interfax-Ukraine news agency said on Friday.
Quoting a press release from ISD, the agency said the group, led by Russian businessman Alexander Katunin, former owner of metals group Evrazholding and now co-owner of Swiss trader Carbofer, had taken 50 percent plus two shares in the Ukrainian group.
It gave no figure for the deal, but the Financial Times newspaper earlier this week valued it at up to $2 billion.
The deal could be politically sensitive since it comes close to a presidential election on Jan. 17 in which the role of Russia’s influence in Ukraine affairs is likely to be an issue.
ISD, based in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, owns and operates several plants in the country as well as steel mills in Hungary and Poland.
Its website said the ISD corporation was ranked among the world top 30 biggest steel producers in 2008 with an annual production of more than 10 million tons of steel.
Under the deal, the remaining shares stayed in the hands of the existing Ukrainian shareholders, Serhiy Taruta and Oleg Mkrtchan. Taruta would stay as chairman of the board and Mkrtchan as director general, the press release said.
An ISD spokesman declined to give details.
Investment company Troika Dialog acted as financial adviser in the deal and Russia’s Vneshekonombank took part in financing, the press release said. (Writing by Richard Balmforth, editing by Will Waterman)