Aughinish Alumina has availed of special legal measures to delay filing annual accounts amid questions over the outlook for the business because of rising gas prices and international sanctions against Russian aluminium interests.
The Russian-controlled business employs more than 400 staff in Co Limerick, refining imported bauxite into alumina which is shipped to France and Sweden and smelted to make aluminium.
As a major supplier to European industry, Aughinish has so far avoided EU sanctions linked to Russia’s war on Ukraine. But as a big gas consumer, it cannot avoid sharply escalating energy costs.
No public information is available on its business performance. Although Grant Thornton accountants have carried out a review of Aughinish’s viability, draft conclusions have not been disclosed.
The most recent set of financial statements for Aughinish and sister company Limerick Alumina Refining were filed in the Companies Registration Office (CRO) in April 2021 for the 2020 fiscal year. In recent weeks, they moved to delay filing accounts.
“The CRO advises that, in accordance with section 346 of the Companies Act 2014, companies can alter the date of their annual return,” said the Department of Enterprise in response to questions.
“Aughinish Alumina Ltd and Limerick Alumina Refining Ltd have availed of this provision and amended their annual return date to 30th September, 2022. Companies have 56 days from the date of their annual return to complete their filing. On this basis, the companies in question have until 25th November, 2022 to file their returns.”
Aughinish and parent company Rusal are ultimately controlled by a group called EN+, which has raised the possibility of “carving out” the unit that includes Limerick but never publicly explained its plans.
Kremlin-linked Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska is a key shareholder in the Limerick plant. Aughinish’s avoidance of EU penalties comes despite Mr Deripaska being hit with European, US and UK sanctions.
But the Irish business remains under close scrutiny from the Government because of concerns about future employment and Aughinish’s role in European industry.
The department said Ireland had “consistently supported and implemented” each of the EU sanctions packages adopted in response to the Russian invasion.
“The Government strongly supports the continued operation of Aughinish Alumina, which is the largest alumina refinery in the EU and an essential part of the European supply chain for aluminium,” the department added.
“None of the sanctions implemented to date have targeted the alumina industry and the department is not aware of any consideration at EU level to extend sanctions to this industry. Neither Aughinish Alumina nor its parent company are subject to EU sanctions.”
Still, recent US warnings that the Biden administration was considering new restrictions on imports of Russian aluminium underlines the vulnerability of Rusal and its subsidiaries to punitive measures as the Russian military campaign intensifies.
Asked about Grant Thornton’s findings on Aughinish and whether the company had sought State aid in any form from the Government, the department said such questions should be directed to the company.
However, Aughinish had nothing to say on the matter. “We acknowledge receipt of your inquiries including recent phone calls and decline to comment,” it said.
Official filings for another group company in Dublin, Rusal Capital DAC, show that KPMG resigned as its auditor in August. KMPG declined to comment on the reasons for its resignation. Neither was there any comment from KPMG on its audit mandates with the Aughinish companies.