US sanctions against Rusal lifted – Business as usual again after a phase of wild chaos

The US Treasury announced at the end of January that the sanctions introduced in April 2018 against En+, Rusal and JSC EuroSibEnergo, all of them companies so far controlled by Oleg Deripaska, will be lifted.

Among the reasons behind that heavy decision of the US Administration, which created months of uncertainty and dismay on the global aluminium market, besides criticism on the control of the companies by Deripaska, one stood out: the desire of the American President to relaunch with a coup de theatre the domestic aluminium industry, a segment which, on account of a vast number of structural reasons, was in a difficult situation. We never hid our critical position regarding the technical aspects of this trade conflict which practically damaged everyone, starting from the very large majority of companies in the US light metal industry: only some US producers of raw metal derived some benefits from the tariff and sanction war, all the rest of the system paid dearly for the Administration’s choices. At any rate, as expected, after a few steps back by Deripaska, (the two En+ and Rusal companies accepted among other things to welcome in its boards of directors independent figures from the US and EU), the decision was finally made to eliminate gradually the provision, not without internal political difficulties since the American Democratic members of parliament were against the elimination of the sanctions.

From our standpoint, looking at the picture of the aluminium industry in the EU and the heavy and growing domestic deficit in primary metal, an apparently irreversible situation, we look with relief upon the exit from the tunnel of sanctions against Rusal which at least brings back some normality to a confused and uncertain scenario which risked creating serious procurement difficulties to European operators. It must not be forgotten that Russia, along with the Gulf States, is an irreplaceable source of quality primary metal for European users and processors of aluminium, the main supplier of 99.7% slabs and of about two thirds of extra European imported lamination slabs; it is the first exporter of wire rods, among the main exporters to the EU of primary alloys for casting and provides the EU with almost 15% of extrusion billets. It is easy to conclude that it would be impossible to do without Rusal’s primary aluminium, and it is a good thing that European industrial aluminium operators are aware of the fact that Russia’s sustainable metal is a real resource for the old continent and an extraordinary opportunity for a solid and lasting technical and sales partnership.