Aurubis optimistic on earnings despite virus crisis - CEO

HAMBURG, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Aurubis AG, Europe’s largest copper producer, expects to achieve its earnings forecast this year despite the economic damage from the coronavirus crisis, its CEO said on Friday.

“Aurubis has come through the coronavirus crisis quite well and we are achieving high production,” Roland Harings told Reuters.

Aurubis is retaining its forecast for full-year group 2019/20 operating earnings before tax of 185-250 million euros ($218-$295 million), he said.

“I can confirm this forecast, we expect to achieve this corridor but we have no results which we can announce yet,” he said.

Aurubis will offer 2021 copper premiums of $96 per tonne above LME prices, unchanged on 2020 despite the pandemic.

“We are still seeing strong demand for copper despite the corona crisis,” Harings said.

“The main trends remain which require copper: digitalization, green energy transition, electrification and electro-mobility. We are also seeing some countries are starting infrastructure projects to help their economies recover, and infrastructure building has an intensive requirement for copper.”

“We are not at the level of product demand seen before the COVID-19 crisis, but we are seeing relatively minor falls in demand of 10-15% for some products depending on category against the very good period before the crisis.”

Treatment and refining charges (TC/RCs), the fees for processing ore set at $62 a tonne in 2020, are currently being discussed by the copper industry.

“I do not see this level as high enough to be sustainable to support the copper production chain,” he said. “We are seeing good concentrate supplies from mines which seem to have overcome the impact of COVID-19 and are producing strongly. I expect a good flow of copper concentrate in coming months.”

Aurubis is making progress in talks to sell its flat rolled products (FRP) division after the European Union blocked a plan to sell the division to Germany’s Wieland.

“We continue to make progress in the sales negotiations for FRP,” he said. “We wish to make a sale to an industrial buyer rather than a financial investor which would give a good long term future to the business. But this can create questions for competition approval and this means time.”

More acquisitions are possible in the medium-term but “not in coming months,” he said.

$1 = 0.8472 euros Reporting by Michael Hogan, editing by Mark Potter