Thursday 23 January 2020

Aughinish owner Rusal hopes shake-up will beat sanctions

The Aughinish Alumina Refinery on the Shannon Estuary
The Aughinish Alumina Refinery on the Shannon Estuary

Polina Devitt and Dmitry Zhdannikov

Aughinish Alumina owner Rusal will overhaul its board and management in a bid to get the US to take it off a sanctions list so it can restart shipments to its customers around the world, according to two sources.

Russian-based Rusal will be forced to quit the global aluminium market and focus on domestic consumers if the US does not lift sanctions once an independent board is in place, a source familiar with the matter said. That will have huge implications for the 450 employees at its huge Aughinish Alumina bauxite refinery in Co Limerick.

The US government this month imposed sanctions on Rusal's billionaire owner Oleg Deripaska and several companies in which he is a large shareholder, including Rusal, in response to what the United States called Russia's "malign activities".

The latest sanctions were triggered by the nerve gas poisoning in Britain of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, along with his daughter and a British policeman which has been blamed on Russia.

Two sources told Reuters yesterday that Rusal planned sweeping board and management changes in a bid to escape sanctions.

The source familiar with the matter said Rusal was in close contact with US authorities.

"Rusal is now in a very close dialogue with OFAC (the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Department of the Treasury).

It is very important for the company to comply with all their instructions to get out of the sanctions," the source said.

The steps were being discussed with other shareholders, the source added. Rusal's other shareholder, Viktor Vekselberg, was also put on the sanctions list. "If this (option) does not work out, then there will be the second option, which (Russian industry and trade minister Denis) Manturov talked about," the source said.

Manturov has previously said that Russia needs to develop deep processing of aluminium.

"It means that Rusal will turn into... a company, which will only look after the domestic market's ambitions. In other words, part of the aluminium will go to (the state repository) Gokhran and up to two million tonnes will be processed internally and meet the needs of the military-industrial complex," the source said.

"In this case, Rusal would leave the global market, and of course no one wants this to happen," the source added. (Reuters)

Irish Independent

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