Russia's aluminium export tax fuels price surge on spot market

LONDON (Reuters) - Plans by Russia to impose taxes on exports of aluminium, a vital material for transport and packaging, have fueled a surge in spot market costs for consumers in Europe and the United States.

FILE PHOTO: A worker stores aluminium ingots at the foundry shop of the Rusal Krasnoyarsk aluminium smelter in Krasnoyarsk, Russia October 3, 2018. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin

Moscow is proposing a 15% export tax on aluminium exports or a minimum of $254 a tonne between August and December. The tax will apply to Rusal, which accounted for 6% of global supplies estimated at 65 million tonnes last year.

Consumers purchasing aluminium on the physical market pay the benchmark aluminium price (CMAL3) on the London Metal Exchange (LME) plus a premium, which covers transport and handling costs and taxes.

Aluminium premiums

Premiums were already ramping up due to supply shortages.

Since Russia’s announcement on June 28, U.S. and European premiums have jumped above the highs seen after the United States imposed sanctions on Rusal in 2018, to a record $640 a tonne and $317 a tonne, respectively.

Rusal's aluminium sales

“Given the still bullish predisposition of the market, the tax may push LME prices toward $2,600 a tonne and perhaps toward new highs,” said Jorge Vazquez, founder of Harbor Aluminum.

Vazquez said duty-paid premiums could rise to $650-$900 a tonne in Europe and to $1,030-$1,300 a tonne in the United States.

Aluminium prices hit a three-year high of $2,603 a tonne in May.

Aluminium prices


Rising premiums suggest Rusal will be able to recoup the tax on spot sales, but for longer-term contracts the picture is different.

Its contracts to sell value-added aluminium products in Europe, Asia and the United States are mainly quarterly and annual. These customers are unlikely to allow renegotiations to take account of the Russia’s export tax.

One exception may be billet sales to European customers, contracts for which are nearly all agreed ahead of the quarter to which they apply.

“On long term contracts, Rusal will probably have to bear the cost, but there will be a question mark over billet contracts for the fourth quarter in Europe,” said CRU analyst Eoin Dinsmore.

Aluminium market balances

Rusal also has an agreement to sell up to 6.9 million tonnes of primary aluminium to Glencore between 2020 and 2024.

Rusal declined to comment.

Reporting by Pratima Desai; additional reporting by Anastasia Lyrchikova; Editing by Kim Coghill