The US Treasury has extended the deadline to investors to divest interests in the Russian firm that owns Aughinish Alumina, in Limerick, but has not removed it from its sanctions list.
Around 650 jobs in Limerick have been under a cloud, because US sanctions, imposed on Aughinish’s owner, Rusal, have played havoc with metal markets over the past four months.
Rusal is majority-owned by En+, a company controlled by Russian billionaire, Oleg Deripaska, who was targeted because of his purported ties to the Kremlin.
In all, 450 staff and 220 contractors are employed at the Aughinish Alumina plant, near Askeaton, which has been described as one of Limerick’s best employers.
The US Treasury Department gave investors more time to sell their shares and debt in En+ and Rusal, extending it to October 23 from August 5, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said.
The decision suggests further negotiations are needed, before making progress on lifting sanctions, after OFAC shunned a request by En+ and its lobbyist, Mercury, to temporarily withdraw the company and Rusal from the list.
Mr Deripaska agreed, in April, to cut his stake in En+ to less than 50%, from 66%, and to appoint a majority of independent directors to the company’s board, as part of a plan to persuade the US to lift sanctions.
Three months after announcing the plan, however, the company hasn’t publicly identified any potential independent directors, nor any buyer for Mr Deripaska’s shares.
The US penalties against Rusal, the world’s largest producer outside China, initially disrupted the global supply chain for the metal and sent prices soaring.
As well as Aughinish, Rusal supplied about 6% of the world’s aluminium and operates mines, smelters, or refineries in locations including Guinea, Jamaica, and Russia.
The Treasury earlier set the October 23 deadline for winding down operations with the company, which is now the deadline for selling out, too. Rusal shares fell more than 2.5% in Hong Kong.
Additional reporting, Bloomberg