By Gordon Deegan
The directors of the firm which operates the Aughinish Alumina refinery said as recently as mid-September they expected a solution to be reached with the US Treasury over sanctions imposed on the Limerick company’s parent.
The directors made the upbeat assessment in new accounts for Limerick Alumina Refining Ltd which show higher alumina prices helped the firm post a pre-tax profit of $50.6m (€44m), the year before the US imposed sanctions on Rusal.
The return to profit came as revenues rose 26% to $658m in 2017. It had made a loss of $40.58m in 2016.
The directors said the favourable environment for the alumina industry in 2017 had boosted earnings.
The huge refinery in the Shannon Estuary was plunged into doubt after the US-imposed sanctions in April on Rusal which is controlled by Russia’s Oleg Deripaska and government ministers have been involved.
The directors of the Irish firm, who signed off on the accounts on September 19, said the refinery was still operating at full capacity “and since the announcement of sanctions, it has had increased sale prices and would continue to be profitable this year and in 2019.
Staff numbers at the refinery were unchanged at 450, while staff costs rose from $50.35m to $52.8m. Directors’ pay increased from $1.1m to over $1.58m.
The profits last year take account of non-cash depreciation costs of $33.28m and a $2.85m loss on foreign exchange. On the talks with the US Treasury concerning the sanctions, the directors said in the accounts they believed the Irish firm would “continue to trade successfully as a going concern” even if the sanctions crisis remained unsolved.