September 21, 2018 / 1:58 PM / a month ago

Rusal seeks China trading team as U.S. sanctions threaten sales: sources

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Russian aluminum giant United Company Rusal is assembling a team of traders in China, three sources with knowledge of the matter said, as the specter of U.S. sanctions hangs over its sales to customers in the West.

FILE PHOTO: A worker controls forming of aluminium ingots on a conveyor belt at the foundry shop of the Rusal Krasnoyarsk aluminium smelter in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, Russia November 9, 2017. Picture taken November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin/File Photo

The sources said Rusal is in the process of setting up a trading company to house the team, which will include a sales manager, an aluminum trader and an alumina trader.

Rusal will task the team with trading domestically sourced aluminum in China. It also expects them to look for opportunities to import the metal, as well as export aluminum products from the country, according to a job description for a sales director role reviewed by Reuters.

An analyst position has also been created at the new entity, which will be located in Beijing, after Rusal earlier considered Shanghai, the sources added.

Rusal declined to comment on Friday.

The United States announced sanctions on Rusal on April 6. It said last week that customers of the Russian firm before that date could sign new contracts without the risk of penalties but made no mention of an Oct. 23 deadline for U.S. entities to wind down business with Rusal.

Sources familiar with the discussions told Reuters earlier this month that European customers would avoid signing 2019 metal supply agreements with Rusal.

China is the world’s biggest aluminum consumer and a potentially lucrative market for Rusal, on the doorstep of its smelters in Siberia.

However, China is also the top global producer of the metal, meaning the country has scant need for foreign aluminum. It imported just 14,631 tonnes of primary aluminum from Russia in 2017, according to Chinese customs data.

Rusal, which is listed in Hong Kong, already has a representative office in Beijing but it has previously carried out trading activities in China via North United Aluminium (Shenzhen) Co, a Guangdong-based joint venture with China North Industries Corp (Norinco).

The Rusal-appointed deputy general manager of North United Aluminium, which was set up in 2012 to trade aluminum, alloys and other non-ferrous metals in China, left the JV over the summer, joining Trafigura in July.

Rusal’s China sales director will be required to establish the trading office in China “from scratch,” the job description says.

Reporting by Tom Daly; additional reporting by Anastasia Lyrchikova in MOSCOW; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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