Rio Tinto Selling Building Materials Division

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto has advanced its debt reduction plans by selling building materials manufacturer Alcan Composites to Swiss machinery producer Schweiter Technologies for $349 million, the two companies said Tuesday.

The sale of Alcan Composites, which is based in Sins, Switzerland, will be completed by the end of the year, the companies said in statements.

Alcan Composites, which manufactures building materials used in wind farms and display facades, has 16 factories in Switzerland, Germany, United States, South America, China and India.

The sale comes as London-based Rio Tinto continues to pay down some of its massive debt, which was incurred mostly during its purchase of Canadian aluminum giant Alcan Inc. in 2007 for $38 billion, a burden made worse by the credit crunch and global downturn.

Rio Tinto has announced asset sales totaling $7 billion since March last year.

Rio Tinto finance director Guy Elliott said the company had made significant inroads into selling assets acquired during the Alcan takeover that aren't essential to Rio's business.

Horgen-based Schweiter Technologies said Alcan Composites will be managed as an independent division. There will be no organizational or management changes, the buyer said.

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