Rusal shares surge in Hong Kong after US eases sanctions stance

Aluminium prices plunged and Rusal shares surged on news that the United States would consider lifting sanctions on the firm

Hong Kong (AFP) – Shares in Russian aluminum giant Rusal soared by a third in Hong Kong on Tuesday after the US Treasury said it would consider lifting sanctions if tycoon Oleg Deripaska gives up control of the company.

The Hong Kong-listed firm soared 33 percent to HK$2.08 at one point in early trading.

US President Donald Trump on April 6 imposed restrictions on Russian oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin following the diplomatic crisis sparked by the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal.

Washington accused Deripaska of operating for the Russian government. Other magnates hit by sanctions include the director of state-owned energy giant Gazprom, Alexei Miller.

The announcement saw Rusal’s share price collapse by about two-thirds over the next week, wiping billions of dollars off its markets capitalisation on fears about its ability to service huge debt obligations.

However, the US Treasury said Monday it could lift the measures “through divestment and relinquishment of control of Rusal by Oleg Deripaska”.

It also said it would give companies more time to comply with the sanctions.

Aluminium prices sank more than seven percent on the London Metals exchange, having soared to seven-year highs in response to the measures. Rusal accounts for about seven percent of the world’s aluminum production.

Other metals including gold, nickel and palladium also fell sharply.

“The market is clearly taking this as light at the end of the tunnel for Rusal,” Oliver Nugent, a metals analyst at Dutch bank ING, told Bloomberg News.

Deripaska is seen as close to Putin, and also had dealings with Paul Manafort, the former chairman of President Trump’s election campaign who is under federal indictment in part over those dealings.