Kenes Rakishev’s Nasdaq-listed Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC), Oxus Acquisition Corp. (“OXUS”), is reportedly considering a takeover bid for Battery Metals Technologies (BMT), a nickel and cobalt mining company in which Rakishev holds a significant investment.
Oxus, which secured $176 million in a New York listing last year, aims to invest in energy transition companies, particularly those in the electric vehicle market. However, the potential acquisition of BMT raises controversy as Rakishev, the sponsor of Oxus, would essentially be using investors’ funds to acquire a company in which he has a substantial interest.
Despite being listed on the Nasdaq exchange since September, Oxus has yet to finalize any deals, though it has been associated with various potential companies. A potential deal with BMT would grant Oxus control over Kazakhstan’s largest nickel and cobalt development project, strategically located near electric vehicle battery manufacturers in China.
BMT is fully owned by Ferronickel Plant Ertis LLP, with a majority stake held by Fincraft Resources, a holding company listed on the Kazakh Stock Exchange, where Rakishev owns a 97.85% stake. Investors in Oxus are likely to closely scrutinize the deal due to the apparent conflict of interest involved in acquiring a company from the SPAC’s sponsor.
Kenes Rakishev has faced controversy before, notably in a 2020 US Senate investigation linking him to financial transactions with an associate of Hunter Biden, the son of the US President. Additionally, his ties to Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Russia’s Chechen Republic, have raised concerns about potential sanctions.
BMT acquired its nickel and cobalt prospect in 2020, with Rakishev claiming substantial proven resources in an interview last year. Despite previous plans for an IPO in Hong Kong, BMT has sought a partner or IPO to support the development of its nickel-cobalt project, with estimated costs of $103 million for the first phase and total project costs reaching $1.5 billion.
While BMT is the latest rumored target for Oxus, the SPAC has also been associated with other potential deals, including an investment in StoreDot, a developer of fast-charging batteries for electric vehicles. However, a potential investment in StoreDot may face conflict of interest concerns, as Rakishev serves as the chairman of Singulariteam, a private equity group that is one of StoreDot’s investors. The arrest of Rakishev’s partner at Singulariteam, Moshe Hogeg, last year on charges of cryptocurrency fraud and sexual assault may have contributed to the challenges in pursuing the StoreDot deal.