February 13, 2020 / 6:36 AM / 4 days ago

Aurubis sees stable annual year after smelter maintenance

HAMBURG (Reuters) - Aurubis AG, Europe’s largest copper producer, on Thursday maintained its forecast of a stable financial year, although a scheduled maintenance shutdown at its main smelter hit its first-quarter numbers.

Operating earnings before taxes (EBT) in the first quarter of its 2019/20 fiscal year ended Dec. 31 dropped to 31 million euros ($33.69 million) from 40 million euros a year earlier.

Last year, Aurubis had flagged that a planned maintenance shutdown at the group’s main production plant in Hamburg last October and November was likely to have an impact of nearly 34 million euros on its first-quarter results.

“We successfully carried out the maintenance shutdown in Hamburg in the planned timeframe and budget,” said Aurubis CEO Roland Harings.

“All of the planned investments and measures were accomplished. We, therefore, expect a considerable improvement in plant availability and a higher concentrate throughput,” Harings said, adding the outlook for the current fiscal year is unchanged.

Aurubis repeated that it expects full-year operating EBT of between 185 million and 250 million euros and an operating ROCE (return on capital employed) of between 8% and 11%.

The copper producer said its Luenen smelter in central Germany will undergo scheduled maintenance shutdowns in April and September, which will have an impact of an estimated 11 million euros on its operating EBT.

Aurubis said it expects a good supply of copper concentrate (ore) in the new year, but with low treatment and refining charges (TC/RCs).

TC/RCs are paid to copper smelters to refine concentrate into metal and are a key part of the copper refiners’ income. Asian copper smelters have agreed a 23% cut in benchmark TC/RCs for 2020.

“Due to the reduced 2020 benchmark, we expect significantly lower treatment and refining charges for concentrates until the end of the fiscal year,” Aurubis said.

“With good ongoing output levels at mines, we will continue to be able to procure a sufficient supply of copper concentrates,” the company said, adding that some bright spots are being seen in the copper product sector.

“For the next few months, Aurubis can expect “robust copper wire rod demand from cable producers.”

For copper shapes, the copper producer anticipates stable demand at the low level of the previous year.

The company is currently seeing initial indications of a slight upturn in demand from the trend toward electrically powered vehicles.

Reporting by Michael Hogan, editing by Thomas Escritt and Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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