HONG KONG/MOSCOW, (Reuters) – Russia’s largest aluminium producer, United Company Rusal Plc , said today that its chief executive and seven board members had quit, part of a strategy it hopes may persuade the United States to lift crippling sanctions on it.
The United States announced sanctions on Rusal on April 6, preventing customers with U.S. exposure from continuing to buy Rusal’s metal and sending aluminium prices to their highest in almost seven years amid fears of a supply shortage.
Washington said the sanctions, which struck at allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, were designed to punish Moscow for its alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, something Russia denies, and other “malign activity.”
The U.S. Treasury Department said last month it would consider lifting the sanctions on Rusal if its major shareholder, Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska, ceded control of the company and sources close to the firm have told Reuters it plans to appoint an independent board that will in turn install a new management team to try to secure sanctions relief.
In a statement today, Rusal said it had been “in continuous discussions with various authorities” to try to get sanctions relief and was announcing a raft of board changes, as well as the resignation of its CEO.
Alexandra Bouriko, who took over as CEO in March, had resigned with effect from May 23, it said, and would be replaced by Evgeny Nikitin as acting CEO until such time as the board appointed a new permanent CEO.
Executive directors Vladislav Soloviev and Siegfried Wolf, and non-executive directors Maxim Sokov, Dmitry Afanasiev, Gulzhan Moldazhanova, Olga Mashkovskaya and Ekaterina Nikitina had also tendered their resignation as directors with effect from June 28, it said in a filing to the Hong Kong bourse.
The U.S. Treasury Department has given U.S. customers of the company until Oct. 23 to wind down business with Rusal.
In a separate statement to the bourse, Rusal said it was of the opinion that international financial institutions were likely to stop dealing with the group unless the U.S. sanctions were lifted or the company was granted a new licence by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
“Opportunities to provide financing to the group on commercially reasonable terms will be very limited,” it said. “The company may not be able to maintain its operating performance at a certain level required to service and repay its indebtedness and that may result in current creditors accelerating repayment.”
Rusal resumed shipping aluminium to some customers last week following an extension of the deadline for companies to wind down contracts under the U.S. sanctions, sources told Reuters. Rusal declined to comment.
Rusal’s controlling shareholder, En+, said on May 18 that Deripaska had resigned from its board of directors.