UPDATE 1-China copper cathode consumption growth to slow in 2013 -execs

Wed Nov 28, 2012 2:38am EST

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SHANGHAI, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Consumption of copper cathode is likely to grow more slowly in China in 2013, cooling further after the pace of growth looks set to drop by at least a third this year, senior metals executives said on Wednesday.

Demand for industrial metals such as copper has weakened this year as China's economic growth slows, largely due to a decline in manufacturing activity in its main export market Europe.

China, the world's top user of copper, could stage a tepid economic rebound in the fourth quarter as higher public infrastructure spending nudges it out of seven consecutive quarters of slowdown, but growth will remain lethargic through 2013 a Reuters poll showed.

"Cathode consumption and imports would definitely grow next year but the growth rate will be slower," Jerry Jiao, the president of Minmetals Nonferrous Metals Holdings, said at a Metal Bulletin conference in Shanghai.

Wu Yuneng, deputy general manager of Jiangxi Copper , the top refined copper cathode producer in China, also forecast at the conference that Chinese cathode consumption growth would slow in 2013 after growth of 4.8 percent this year.

Neither provided a specific figure, but growth was seen as well down on 7.8 percent growth last year, 11.5 percent in 2010, 19.6 percent in 2009 and 11.8 percent in 2008, according to data from Antaike, a state-owned research firm.

Stefan Boel, a member of the executive board at Aurubis AG, the biggest cathode producer in Germany, said it was seeing good interest from Chinese importers for next year and while growth may not be double-digit, there could "be still good growth".

Chile's Codelco, the world's largest copper producer, has started talks for 2013 term shipments with Chinese customers, CEO Thomas Keller said.

CONCENTRATE

China's copper smelting capacity is expected to rise by about 420,000 tonnes to around 5.6 million tonnes by the end of this year, compared with about 5.18 million tonnes last year, and capacity would continue to grow at a similar pace in 2013, said Wu at Jiangxi Copper.

But he said some smelters in China were not running full production capacity because of the high price to import raw material concentrate.

"Even though the new capacity was completed, some may not reach full production," Wu said, noting that concentrate supply in the global market was expected to rise next year as new mines come on stream.

Jiangxi Copper estimates global mine production would rise by more than one million tonnes of copper next year.

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