United Company RUSAL PLC said this week that the April 2018 designation had “significantly challenged” the company, but now it will spend the coming months plotting a comeback, according to its first quarterly earnings report since it was delisted by the U.S. in January.
RUSAL, the third-largest global producer of aluminum, reported a 21 percent drop in revenue for the first quarter compared to the same period last year. Net profit for the quarter dropped by nearly half, and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA, fell by more than 60 percent, the company said.
However, RUSAL is taking a positive outlook in the wake of its delisting. The company “will allocate considerable funds” to implement already-announced investment projects, to modernize equipment at the company’s facilities, said Chief Executive Officer Evgenii Nikitin. The company “will promote its products to foreign markets,” he added.
In the past month, RUSAL announced it would invest $200 million in a planned U.S. rolling mill and the placement of 10-year bonds, with an offer in three years, at a volume of 15 million rubles (USD232,000) on the Moscow Stock Exchange. RUSAL announced Thursday that its board approved the U.S. investment.
RUSAL’s restoration of its market position, including the share of its value-added products, “will be vital due to ongoing price uncertainty in the global aluminum market and continued U.S.-China tensions,” Nikitin said.
RUSAL was removed from the U.S. sanctions list in late January after its holding company, En+ Group PLC, struck a deal with the U.S. Treasury Department, in which Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska reduced his stake in the company, and En+, RUSAL and a third company agreed to significant governance overhauls.
Under the deal, Deripaska had to reduce his stake in En+ to no more than 44.95 percent, and he can only vote 35 percent of En+ shares. Any remaining stake held by Deripaska is voted on by independent third parties.A majority of the board members of En+ and RUSAL are required to have “no business, professional, or family ties to Deripaska,” according to the Treasury, with additional requirements for U.S. and UK nationals to serve on the boards. And RUSAL and En+ are subject to reporting, auditing and certification requirements, including an obligation to submit earnings reports and board minutes to the U.S. government for review.
Deripaska was sanctioned by the U.S. in April 2018 as one of several Russians involved in election interference, cyberattacks on U.S. infrastructure. and other malign conduct. He has been investigated for alleged money laundering, linked to Russian organized crime, accused of taking part in racketeering and ordering the murder of a competitor, according to the Treasury.
At the time he was sanctioned, Deripaska held a controlling, 70 percent stake in En+, which conferred sanctions on companies it owned, including RUSAL and EuroSibEnergo. An asset majority-owned by a sanctioned actor is considered blocked under a Treasury policy known as the “50 percent rule.” In March, Deripaska sued for his removal from the sanctions list, later saying in interviews that U.S. actions against him were “based on filthy lies.”
The deal struck with En+ remains shrouded in political intrigue, months after it went into effect. U.S. Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly asked for more information from the Trump administration on how the deal came together, as they monitor whether the companies are complying with it. U.S. officials say they will vigorously enforce the deal and have threatened to reimpose the sanctions if the companies or Deripaska are found violating the agreement.
The sanctions on RUSAL never came into full effect, as the Treasury issued-- and repeatedly extended -- licenses that allowed certain transactions while the two sides worked out the deal. The Treasury issued guidance for RUSAL and other companies subject to sanctions due to their designated owners, stressing that the path to relief is through divestment and relinquishing control.
Nevertheless, RUSAL and its controlling parent felt immediate effects from the April 2018 designation. En+ temporarily lost critical depositary receipt services. Shares of RUSAL fell by more than half within days, and the London Metal Exchange said the company’s aluminum couldn’t be added to the exchange’s official stockpiles used to settle contracts. Within weeks, multiple board members and top executives fled RUSAL and En+, and by mid-May, Deripaska was out as well. Deripaska earned $4.68 million from RUSAL in 2018, corporate records show.
En+ Chairman Lord Barker, a former U.K. Conservative Party energy minister, quickly worked to get the company out from under the sanctions, and by the end of 2018, had succeeded: The two sides announced the deal in late December, with a 30-day clock to implementation. Barker, according to a Bloomberg News report, received a $4 million bonus for his efforts.
In the meantime, Deripaska is seeking to get his troubled commercial vehicle giant, GAZ Group, delisted and he has hired a former U.S. ambassador to aid him in the effort. GAZ Group “has no chance of survival” if it isn’t delisted, Deripaska has said in recent interviews.