November 18, 2019 / 9:00 AM / 21 days ago

Russia's Rusal faces tough market for aluminium even after sanctions dropped

    By Anastasia Lyrchikova
    MOSCOW, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Russian aluminium group Rusal
          has faced tough negotiations with clients over 2020
supply contracts as trade wars and an economic slowdown have
created a "buyer's market" for the metal, its sales director
said.
    Rusal entered the aluminium "mating season" - when customers
and producers get together to strike deals - hoping to win back
clients lost a year ago, when U.S. sanctions hit the company's
bottom line and roiled world aluminium markets.
    Washington lifted the sanctions on Rusal in late January
after intense negotiations and a series of organisational
changes, though restrictions on its founder Oleg Deripaska
remain.              
    Sanction risks are no longer an issue in discussions with
clients, Rusal's Sales and Marketing Director Roman Andryushin
said, but trade wars and a slowdown in global economic growth
have created a "depressive" market. 
    Aluminium prices         have fallen by around 10% from
their 2019 peak in March. 
    "Overall the market is not straightforward right now,"
Andryushin said. "Global consumption fell this year for the
first time in the past 12-13 years. It's a buyer's market right
now."
    Most aluminium sellers have run into difficulties during the
current negotiating season as a result, Andryushin said. 
    Talks with clients are continuing later into the year than
usual. Though almost complete in the United States, they will
not wrap up in Europe until the end of November, Andryushin
said.
    Producers have been under pressure to cut prices in their
2020 contracts due to weak market conditions, sources in the
sector told Reuters in October.             
    Rusal, the world's largest aluminium producer outside China,
expects to win back the majority of its clients, however. 
    "No one is discussing sanctions right now. I am once again
seeing my belief confirmed that the market is absolutely
objective, and moreover it has a very short memory span,"
Andryushin said. 
    "Rusal is currently positioning itself as a player in the
premium segment," he said, adding the company expects
value-added (VAP) product sales - such as alloyed ingots and
slabs - to make up 45-50% of its total sales next year. 
    VAP sales to the United States, which fell last year as
sanctions deterred clients, have recovered and are expected to
reach 250,000-300,000 tonnes next year, Andryushin added.  
    The company has also made its first product deliveries to
the U.S. west coast and entered the Canadian market. 
    The sales director said he expected mining giant Glencore
         to remain one of Rusal's clients, after a long-term
contract between the two companies expired last year.
    However, he said he was not yet ready to comment on the
likely extent of their future relationship as negotiations were
not complete. 
    Rusal expects global demand and prices to start recovering
from current levels in the second quarter or in the second half
of 2020.

 (Writing by Polina Ivanova and Polina Devitt; Editing by Jan
Harvey and Mark Potter)
  
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