(Adds CEO comments from paragraph 8)
HAMBURG Feb 26 Germany's Aurubis,
Europe's largest copper producer, said smelter fees are likely
to rise soon and help it turn around this year, while it also
has restored high output at its main Hamburg plant after a long
"We are still in heavy seas, but we are on course and
hopefully will come through soon," Chief Executive Peter
Willbrandt told shareholders at their annual meeting on
Wednesday. "There are signs of this."
Earlier this month, Aurubis posted a pre-tax loss of 73
million euros ($100 million) for the first quarter of its
2013/14 fiscal year starting Oct. 1, against a 13 million euro
profit a year earlier due to delays in modernising the Hamburg
plant and tight scrap market.
Work is now largely finished, Willbrandt said.
"The concentrate (copper ore) processing in Hamburg has in
past weeks been running at a very high level," he said.
"For the rest of the year, much will depend how the copper
price develops and the investment trend in the economy."
Copper prices should have a "good fundamental basis", he
said. He noted premiums for copper cathodes or newly produced
metal were "at a high level".
"The sales markets for copper products are showing rising
purchase interest as shown in the 2014 negotiating season for
annual contracts, which has just been completed," he said.
Availability of copper concentrate is good, which is likely
to have a positive impact on copper treatment and refining
charges (TC/RCs), he said.
TC/RCs are paid by miners to smelters to refine concentrate
into metal and are a significant part of the global industry's
earnings but have been weak early in the new year.
"There have been positive signals in the copper concentrate
market," he said. "The TC/RCs will rise, although this will take
place at the earliest in the current quarter."
The market for sulphuric acid, a byproduct of copper,
remains tough because of low demand from the fertilizer industry
and forecasts are difficult, he said.
The scrap metal market remained tight, while the euro zone
economy is also showing signs of stabilisation including in
south Europe, he said.
"Overall there will probably be a balanced market situation
for copper, which does not display a large surplus," he said.
Aurubis shares were up 0.12 percent at 41.36 euros at 1039
GMT, while Germany's MDAX index for medium-sized companies down
($1 = 0.7282 euros)
(Reporting by Michael Hogan; editing by Jane Baird)