August 20, 2019 / 1:21 PM / a month ago

Palladium deficit to widen, Nornickel says as net profit jumps 81%

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The global palladium market will remain in structural deficit this year, Russia’s Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel) (GMKN.MM) said on Tuesday as it reported an 81% leap in first-half net profit.

FILE PHOTO: Molten nickel is poured at Norilsk Nickel's Nadezhda metallurgical plant in the Arctic city of Norilsk, January 23, 2015. REUTERS/Polina Devitt

Nornickel, the world’s largest palladium producer, said that first-half net profit jumped to $3 billion as London palladium prices rose by 40%. Palladium prices XPD= hit a three-week high in London on Tuesday.

Higher prices for palladium and increased output offset a decline in prices for nickel, copper and platinum amid concerns over U.S.-China trade negotiations and a slowdown in the global economy, Nornickel President and co-owner Vladimir Potanin said in a statement.

The company expects a global palladium deficit of 600,000 troy ounces for 2019 because of growing demand from the autos sector on the back of tighter emission regulations in all major markets. Palladium is used mainly in emissions-capping catalytic converters for automobiles.

Nornickel, vying with Brazil’s Vale VALE5.SA to be the world’s biggest nickel producer, said it expects the global nickel deficit to narrow to 60,000 tonnes in 2019, with Indonesia and China increasing their nickel pig iron (NPI) output.

Shares in Nornickel rose by 2.3% in Moscow, outperforming a 0.9% gain for the broader index .IMOEX on its financial results and stronger than expected dividends thanks to higher revenue and lower costs, BCS Global Markets analysts said in a note.

Given its $2.2 billion free cash flow, Nornickel recommended an interim dividend of 883.93 roubles ($13.27) per share, equating to $2.1 billion in total.

Nornickel is part owned by Potanin and aluminum producer Rusal (0486.HK).

Its first-half capital expenditure was unchanged from a year ago at $500 million.

Nornickel also said that 2019 total capital expenditure is expected to reach up to $2.2 billion as its Talnakh concentrator and South Cluster mining projects enter the active construction phase in the second half of 2019.

The company’s first-half earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) totaled $3.7 billion, up 21% year on year, on revenue that rose 8% to $6.3 billion.

($1 = 66.6225 roubles)

Reporting by Polina Devitt and Anastasia Lyrchikova; Editing by David Goodman

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