October 10, 2018 / 11:25 AM / in 11 days

Rio Tinto to restart sale of Icelandic aluminium plant - sources

LONDON (Reuters) - Rio Tinto (RIO.L) (RIO.AX) is close to restarting a sale process for some of its aluminium assets, including a plant in Iceland, which have been valued at around $350 million, two sources familiar with the matter said.

The assets include a 53 percent stake in a Dutch anode facility and 50 percent of the shares in a Swedish aluminium fluoride plant, which are ingredients in aluminium production, the sources added.

French investment bank Natixis (CNAT.PA) has been helping Rio with the sale, one of the sources said.

Rio Tinto declined to comment and Natixis was not immediately available to comment.

Norwegian aluminium company Norsk Hydro (NHY.OL) pulled out of a previous plan to buy the assets in September, blaming a delay in getting European Commission approval for the deal.

Given Hydro’s already major position in the aluminium industry, the European Commission may have had competition concerns, industry sources said.

Iceland generates all its electricity from hydropower and geothermal energy and Rio’s aluminium plant could appeal to companies looking to make their output as green as possible.

Producing aluminium requires huge amounts of energy, meaning it is also more cost effective to use hydropower.

Rio Tinto Chief Executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques, who took charge in July 2016, is gradually selling all but the company’s best-performing units.

Rio agreed in January to sell an aluminium smelter in Dunkirk in France to Sanjeev Gupta’s Liberty House, which also bought the miner’s smelter in Lochaber, Scotland.

The entire aluminium supply chain has been hit this year by U.S. sanctions on Russian producer Rusal (0486.HK), an outage at Norsk Hydro’s plant in Brazil and a strike at Alcoa’s alumina refineries in Australia.

Benchmark aluminium prices CMAL3 on the London Metal Exchange have risen 21 percent since the start of the year.

Reporting by Clara Denina and Barbara Lewis; additional reporting by Pratima Desai. Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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