U.S. tariffs may test their mettle, but Russian steelmakers safe

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian metals and mining companies face relatively little harm from any introduction of U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, analysts and company representatives said on Friday.

Russia’s top two steelmakers and its leading aluminium producer saw their share prices fall after President Donald Trump said he would impose hefty tariffs to protect U.S. producers.

Trump said the duties, 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminium, would be formally announced next week, although White House officials later said some details still needed to be ironed out.

Russia shares Europe’s concern about the decision, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday, adding that Moscow is “carefully analysing the situation which is forming in trade relations after this statement”.

Russian deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich said he expected some damage to Russia from the new duties, Interfax news agency reported, but he added that any harm would be more significant for the European Union and China.

Analysts also said the long-term impact for Russian steel and aluminium producers would be muted.


For Severstal CHMF.MM, a leading steel producer, and Rusal 0486.HK, the small size of their U.S. sales makes it easy to redirect to other markets, analysts said.

The roughly 300,000 tonnes of steel that Severstal exports to the United States can easily be channelled elsewhere, BCS Global Markets experts said.

This was echoed by company representatives, who told Reuters the United States accounted for just 2 percent of Severstal’s sales, though the company’s shares were down 2 percent.

“As for aluminium, it is a virtually zero issue as Rusal sells only around 10 percent to 15 percent of volumes there and will send the material elsewhere at virtually no cost,” BCS wrote in a note.

Rusal, controlled by businessman Oleg Deripaska, saw its share price fall 3.3 percent. The company did not reply to a request for comment.

Russian steelmakers with sizeable exports to the United States would be protected from the impact of tariffs by their U.S. assets, analysts said.

Steel producer Evraz, co-owned by Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich, exports 0.4 million tonnes of steel slabs to the United States, but its North American assets sell 2.2 million tonnes on the U.S. market, VTB Capital analysts said. Domestic price rises would more than offset the new costs.

Evraz shares were up 0.2 percent. The company did not reply to requests for comment.

Similarly, though the new tariffs would cost top Russian steel producer NLMK NLMK.MM an additional $150 million, this would also be offset by the 2.2 million tonnes of steel it sells in the United States, VTB Capital said.

NLMK, controlled by billionaire Vladimir Lisin, said in February that it had placed on hold a project to increase its U.S. rolling mill capacity until more information was available about the possible tariffs, after they were recommended by the U.S. Commerce Department.

Despite warning that hardline U.S. tariffs could cause a “systemic shock” for the global steel market, NLMK said it had no plans to leave the United States.

A representative of NLMK said on Friday the company was declining to comment until Washington makes an official decision.

Reporting by Polina Ivanova, Polina Devitt, Anastasia Lyrchikova and Diana Asonova; Writing by Polina Ivanova; Editing by Dale Hudson; Editing by Katya Golubkova