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Profits up at Russian-owned plant in Limerick after US sanctions end


The Aughinish Alumina facility in Co Limerick

The Aughinish Alumina facility in Co Limerick

The Aughinish Alumina facility in Co Limerick

Profits at the Russian-owned Aughinish alumina refinery in Co Limerick rose 28pc to €43.6m last year as the plant switched from oil to gas and found a cheaper supply for its core material, bauxite.

The refinery supplies about a third of Europe's aluminium oxide, which is used to produce aluminium parts and products. Its Russian owner was removed from a US Treasury sanctions list in January 2019.

The newly published 2019 accounts for Limerick Alumina Refining Ltd state that "all banking and supply chains" at the Askeaton-based firm that had been "impacted by the imposition of the sanctions returned to normal activity following the lifting of sanctions."

It said its Russian parent, United Company Rusal, "has invested in the business to replace more expensive third-party-supplied bauxite with owner-supplied bauxite. This significant investment will help sustain the business in the long term".

The firm said it also had commissioned two gas-fired boilers last year that had its reduced energy consumption costs and meant the plant "no longer relies on heavy fuel oil as a result".

The US administration of President Donald Trump removed Rusal from the sanctions list despite strong congressional opposition from Democrats after its primary shareholder, oligarch Oleg Deripaska, reduced his stake in the company.

Mr Deripaska had ties to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who in 2018 was convicted on fraud and conspiracy charges and received a 7-year prison sentence.

Limerick Alumina's accounts said Rusal and connected firms "have reduced the direct and indirect shareholding of Mr Deripaska in these companies and severed his control".

The accounts said the plant generated 2019 turnover of $690.9m (€581.3m), a decline of 8.7pc from the year before.

But sharply lower costs and an improved alumina market meant that its operating profit surged by two-thirds to $70.2m (€59.1m).

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After deducting interest charges of $15.6m and an Irish tax bill equivalent to $2.1m, the plant - which employs 450 workers - booked net profits of $52.4m (€43.6m).

The accounts made no reference to last year's European Court of Justice ruling that Ireland gave the firm €10m in illegal tax breaks from 2002 to 2004 via excise exemptions for heavy mineral oil in a case that had been appealed on five occasions.

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