MOSCOW, May 16 - RAPSI. Two lawsuits worth a total of $390.85 million by Novolipetsk Steel  (NLMK) against businessman and Maxi-Group founder Nikolai Maximov have been combined into a single proceeding by the ruling of the Moscow Commercial Court.

One lawsuit claims 5.392 billion rubles ($175.6 million) from Nikolai Maximov, while the other seeks to invalidate the transaction with the Maxi-Group shares and recoup the 7.3 billion rubles ($237.76 million) NLMK paid to the company.

The merger application was submitted by Maximov representatives without any objection from NLMK. The next hearings are set for May 25.

A series of court proceedings began after December 2007 when NLMK acquired a 50 percent plus one share of the Maxi-Group company, which comprised a number of businesses. Both parties later filed lawsuits according to their different views on the price of the deal.

The prices of the shares were to be calculated after the completion of a financial and legal examination of the companies making up Maxi-Group. Maximov was given an advance payment worth 7.3 billion rubles ($237.76 million).

The parties have made no joint calculations so far and have made all their estimations separately. In a previous statement, Maximov said that the portfolio he sold was worth around 23 billion rubles ($749.13 million).

NLMK has stated that that the company was misled by Maximov, as he withheld information about Maxi-Group's debt and looming bankruptcy. The steel company said that Maxi-Group was actually insolvent at the time of the purchase.

NLMK is one of the world's largest steel producers. Vladimir Lisin is its primary beneficiary with a 84.6-percent stake in the company. Some 2.5 percent of the shares belong to the company's management. Another 12.89 percent of the company's shares are in free float, with 8.45 percent of them being the GDR shares floating on the London Stock Exchange.