August 26, 2009 / 8:54 AM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 2-Chalco: China privately holds up to 600 kT aluminium

4 Min Read

* Chalco sees China 2009 aluminium output at 13.2 mln t

* Chalco sees China 2009 aluminium consumption 12.85 mln t

* Implies 30 percent increase in monthly production

* China restarts 1.28 million t idle aluminium capacity

(Adds sum of stocks in para 4 and restarted capacity)

By Polly Yam

HONG KONG, Aug 26 (Reuters) - China's privately held aluminium stocks total 500,000-600,000 tonnes, its top producer of the metal said on Wednesday, lower than analyst estimates but still a substantial overhang.

The estimate, given by Aluminum Corp of China Ltd (Chalco) (2600.HK) (601600.SS) president Luo Jianchuan at a news conference, equates to around half the 1.1 million tonnes that China imported in the first seven months of this year.

Aluminium output in China, the world's top producer, has been surging in response to prices that have risen by more than a quarter since the start of the year as China's State Reserves Bureau (SRB) stepped in to buy metal directly from smelters.

Chalco chairman Xiong Weiping said China's aluminium market was oversupplied and the situation would last for 3 years.

"China is having a surplus problem. If demand improves, it would take about 3 years time to get the oversupply easing,' Xiong told the news conference.

Analysts and smelter officials had estimated China's privately held aluminium stocks at around 700,000 tonnes.

Together with the State Reserves Bureau's purchases of 570,000 tonnes -- a figure provided by Chalco -- the tally covers the the entire imports for this year.

Chalco expects China to produce 13.2 million tonnes of primary aluminium this year, above consumption of 12.85 million tonnes, implying a surplus of around 350,000 tonnes.

That level of annual output would mean an average of 1.3 million tonnes a month for the last five months of the year, according to a Reuters calculation, ahead of the around 1 million tonnes for the past three months.

Chalco said the SRB had bought a total of 570,000 tonnes in the first half of the year, 65 percent of which came from the company itself. That would put Chalco's sales to the state at 370,500 tonnes.

Restarting Capacity

China had restarted 1.28 million tonnes of idle primary aluminium capacity and 3.48 million tonnes of idle alumina capacity between the second quarter and August 10 due to firm prices, Luo said.

"The current prices of 15,000 yuan per tonne to aluminium and 2,400 yuan to alumina are above producers' break-even levels," Luo said. "With this prices, all idle capacity in China is being restarted."

Chalco itself had restarted 310,000 tonnes of aluminium capacity and 670,000 tonnes of alumina. It will restart the rest of idle primary aluminium capacity soon, excluding a 55,000-tonne outdated facility in Henan province, he added.

That suggested Chalco was restarting 595,000 tonnes of the capacity given the shut capacity was 960,000 tonnes in late March.

"By 1-2 months, we will be operating more than 90 percent of our aluminium capacity," Luo said.

Chalco expected its power cost to fall once the National Development and Reform Commission approves fees that are paid by the aluminium firm directly to power plants and grids under a programme under which smelters are allowed to buy electricity directly from power plants.

Electricity took up 43 percent of Chalco's cost of aluminium production in the first half of the year.

(Additional reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by William Hardy) ((polly.yam@thomsonreuters.com; +852 2843 6933; Reuters Messaging: polly.yam.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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