Russia's Rusal Posts $821M Profit

World's largest aluminum producer said it earned $821 million in 2009, compared to a net loss of just under $6 billion in 2008.

HONG KONG (AP) -- Russia's UC Rusal, the world's largest aluminum producer, said Monday it earned $821 million in 2009 despite a plunge in revenues, in its first earnings report since its controversial debut on the Hong Kong stock market in January.

The result compared with a net loss of just under $6 billion in 2008, the Moscow-based company said.

Rusal sold shares in Hong Kong in January in an effort to pay down heavy debt. The sale was overshadowed by a lawsuit against chief executive Oleg Deripaska. Hong Kong regulators limited purchases to investors willing to buy at least $1 million Hong Kong dollars ($128,900) in shares and potential investors were warned about significant risk.

Rusal's 2009 revenue plunged 48 percent to $8.2 billion due to lower aluminum prices and sales volumes, the company said. But it said reduced sales and production also helped to reduce sales costs by 39 percent.

Aluminum production dropped 11 percent to 3.9 million metric tons after the company cut production at inefficient smelters. Alumina production contracted by 36 percent to 7.3 million metric tons as production at high-cost refineries was suspended.

Rusal said it expects to increase aluminum production by 3 percent this year as market conditions improve, driven by economic growth in China and India and economic recovery in developed countries.

China's contribution to its revenues doubled from 3 percent in 2008 to 6 percent in 2009. China is the world's largest aluminum consumer and accounts for 35 percent of global demand.

The aluminum giant said the $2.2 billion it raised in Hong Kong -- along with shares issued on the Euronext exchange -- helped it pare down its debt to $12.9 billion as of Feb. 1. The company said it plans to repay another $3.3 billion by the end of 2013.

Rusal is also considering a ruble-denominated bond sale in Russia, deputy chief executive Oleg Mukhamedshin said at a press conference in Hong Kong.

The Russian company has been trading below its IPO price and lagging Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng Index since its Jan. 27 debut in Hong Kong.

Deripaska was dismissive when asked about the stock's lackluster performance.

"Two months represents almost nothing. We're very positive about Rusal's ability to deliver value to our shareholders from our operations, from our investments," he said.

But executives were cautious when asked whether they would lobby Hong Kong regulators to lower the minimum amount of shares that retail investors are required to buy.

"We are here to obey the rules. We are not here to question them," Deputy Chief Executive Artem Volynets said.

Rusal edged up 0.85 percent to close at HK$9.48 on Monday.

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