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Norilsk’s 2014 strategy won’t hurt long-term output: exec

Keywords: Tags  Norilsk Nickel, nickel production, copper production, platinum group metals, PGM, Sergey Dyachenko, Rey Mashayekhi

NEW YORK — MMC Norilsk Nickel does not expect its revised resource strategy, which emphasizes the company’s Russian operations at the expense of international assets, will affect its nickel output "in the long run," chief operating officer Sergey Dyachenko told AMM during an Oct. 7 investors meeting in New York.

Moscow-based Norilsk announced details of the new strategy Oct. 4 after the company’s board of directors approved the plans last month (, Oct. 4). The world’s largest producer of nickel and palladium is prioritizing upstream assets within its Polar and Kola divisions, with plans to offload operations in South Africa, Botswana and Australia by 2016.

Dyachenko highlighted Norilsk’s strategy of focusing on Tier 1 assets—high-revenue, high-margin operations that provide a greater return on the company’s investment—while divesting itself of international operations that constitute "a small part of (Norilsk’s) total production."

"We’ve gone through the analysis on all our production, and it was quite obvious for us that we should focus on our main assets," Dyachenko said. "In the long run, I think it’s not going to affect production."

Norilsk’s revised strategy includes infrastructure development within its Polar division projects, which already meet Tier 1 criteria of more than $1 billion in annual revenue, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization margins over 40 percent and a reserve life greater than 20 years. The company also plans to reduce operating costs and improve efficiency within the Kola division to help it reach targeted levels of profitability by the end of 2014.

Dyachenko said the company’s potential for growth within those divisions is "why we’re divesting from the international assets," adding that Norilsk has "already started the process" of offloading its foreign operations. "We’re looking at proposals from the market. Obviously, we’re not in a rush; those assets do produce. If we get a very attractive proposal, we’ll sell those assets."

The new strategy also includes an increased focus on existing copper and platinum group metals (PGM) assets within Norilsk’s portfolio—assets that Dyachenko said have helped shield the company from declining nickel prices.

"The uniqueness of the situation is we have several commodities in our portfolio," he said. "With copper and PGMs, our operating costs are actually backed well, so the nickel price decline hasn’t affected us much. Even with the decline in the nickel price, our profit margin never got below 41 percent."

Dyachenko, who joined Norilsk in July after three years with London-based copper mining company Kazakhmys Plc, touted future growth within the copper sector, but added that Norilsk’s plans wouldn’t constitute "a huge increase in production."

"I’m a strong believer in the copper market," he said. "I think the demand for copper is going to grow. With China’s organization and the movement of its people, each household will require copper."

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