Aughinish Alumina's owner could invest further in the Irish aluminium manufacturer after the US lifted a threat of sanctions from the group.
The US government has agreed to a deal that would lift sanctions from Aughinish's ultimate parent, the London-listed EN+, securing 450 jobs at the Co Limerick plant and an estimated 2,000 overall in the Republic.
As a result, EN+ chairman and former UK cabinet minister Lord Barker of Battle indicated that the group would invest in the Irish plant. "We will continue to invest in the plant now that we can be confident about its future," he said.
Last year the US named Oleg Deripaska, the majority owner of EN+, as one of 24 Russian oligarchs it intended sanctioning to punish Moscow for alleged interference in elections.
The move potentially cut his aluminium manufacturing group off from key markets and threatened the future of plants such as Aughinish, which supports contractors and suppliers along with direct employees.
Following months of talks the US treasury department’s office of foreign assets’ control has agreed to a deal under which Mr Deripaska will cut his holding to 45 per cent, give him control of just 35 per cent of voting rights, and pay any dividends to him to an account controlled by the treasury.
Lord Barker said that for the 450 workers at Aughinish, along with others involved in supplying and servicing the facility, the deal meant continuity for a business whose future had remained in doubt up to recently.
“We are now looking to the long-term future of this very valuable asset,” he said. Lord Barker noted that Aughinish, Europe’s biggest aluminium refinery, was among “the foremost of its kind in the globe”.
Mr Deripaska is relinquishing control of EN+ at an estimated personal cost of $3 billion. Along with this new independent directors are taking charge of the group.
“We are not just raising the bar for corporate governance of Russian-listed companies, we are kicking it through the ceiling,” Lord Barker said.
The independent directors include Christopher Burnham, a veteran of the first Gulf War, who served as US assistant secretary of state for resource management, and Nicholas Jordan, former co-chief executive of Goldman Sachs' Russian business.
EN+'s chairman also stressed that the deal ending the sanctions had widespread support from the US government and transatlantic allies, including the UK, which strongly supports sanctions against Russia.