Norilsk Nickel Posts $2.6B Profit

MOSCOW (AP) -- Norilsk Nickel, the world's largest producer of nickel, said Tuesday that it posted a profit of $2.6 billion last year -- largely due to a major cost-reduction program -- despite a 27 percent dip in revenue.

The result was a significant turnaround compared with 2008, when the company reported a $555 million loss after a $4.7 billion writedown on assets.

The company said it managed to slash operational expenditures by 30 percent -- from $5.5 billion in 2008 to $3.9 billion last year.

Last year sales fell to $10.1 billion from nearly $14 billion in 2008 due to lower prices for nickel, copper, platinum and other metals.

Sales of nickel, which accounted for half of the corporation's metal sales and more than 40 percent of total revenue, fell 31 percent last year. Norilsk Nickel sold 283,000 metric tons of nickel last year, down less than 2 percent year-on-year, with some 53 percent sold to Europe.

The company said it was able to "significantly increase" its market share in Asia, selling 30 percent of its nickel output to the region.

The average nickel price in 2009 fell 31 percent to $14,853 per metric ton, the firm said.

Norilsk Nickel is also the world's largest producer of palladium, which is used for catalytic converters and jewelry. Last year the company sold $912 million worth of the rare-earth metal, down 29 percent year-on-year.

The biggest shareholders in Norilsk Nickel are Interros, owned by billionaire Vladimir Potanin, and the world's largest aluminium producer Rusal, owned by tycoon Oleg Deripaska.

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