ALRO output to rise

BUCHAREST – Romania’s ALRO, one of Europe’s biggest smelters, announced yesterday aluminum output will rise to 210,000 tons this year from an originally planned 205,000 tons, due to favorable global market conditions. ALRO says rising world aluminum prices and also the erosion of stocks held at London Metal Exchange warehouses across Europe were among the factors that have prompted it to produce more than it had originally planned. «Optimal market conditions pushed us to increase production to about 210,000 tons up to the end of the year,» Peter Braun, Alro’s vice president told Reuters in an interview. Braun said the smelter, which is Romania’s sole primary aluminum producer and is owned by US-based metals trader Marco, wants to remain a key player in the Mediterranean region, where it exports 75 percent of its output. ALRO produced 198,000 tons of metal in 2003 and is selling its output mainly to Greece, Italy and Turkey through a private trading house without resorting to warehouses. Stocks held at warehouses fell to 931,175 tons from 1.24 million tons at the end of January. Aluminum was up to $1,727-$1,729 from $1,720 as stocks dropped by 1,750 tons yesterday. London traders have said consumers in the new European Union member states which joined this year, including Hungary and Poland, had been stockpiling metal before accession in order to avoid paying a 6 percent EU-wide import duty on aluminum. Braun said ALRO had shifted focus to high value-added metal to be more competitive on EU markets ahead of Romania’s accession planned for 2007, although it still depends on electricity supplies from state-controlled power distributors. ALRO has long wanted to build its own power plant to cut production costs and become energy independent and had planned to issue bonds of up to $250 million. A $39 million investment from the smelter’s own resources in upgrading production equipment had helped the plant double rod wire production and increase billets output, Braun said.