,Europe's biggest iron ore producer, said April 29 that it began exporting moreand selling less in its domestic market during the first quarter, as demand forthe material eased in Russia at the start of the year.
Thecompany produced 10 million tonnes of iron ore in the first three months of2016, slightly less than in the fourth quarter of 2015, and sent just 57% ofthis to local buyers, compared to 69% last year.
The changewas due to a "planned" reduction in purchases by local steelcompanies, Metalloinvest said, adding that this allowed the company to switchfocus to exports to Europe and Asia.
Ironore shipments to European customers increased by 20%, and demand was especiallystrong in Spain and Slovakia, while Asian shipments also jumped, from 9% oftotal exports during the final quarter of last year to 17% in the latestquarter.
Productionof hot briquetted iron and direct reduced iron, Metalloinvest's flagship products,remained stable, at 1.5 million tonnes in the first quarter, while the outputof iron ore pellets fell slightly compared with the fourth quarter, to 6million tonnes.
Thecompany is aiming to become a top regional producer of HBI/DRI, with targetedproduction of 7.7 million tonnes per annum by 2023.
Likeother iron ore producers, Metalloinvest's revenues have fallen in tandem withiron ore prices, but margins have remained relatively high, due to the weaknessof the Russian ruble, which helped to reduce the company's costs in dollarterms.
Theruble fell in value, from about 32 to the dollar at the start of 2014, to over70 to the dollar by the end of 2015.
Metalloinvesthad US$3.96 billion in total debt at the end of 2015, about US$820 million cashon hand, with US$707 million in debt due for repayment this year, according todata from Standard & Poor's Ratings Services.
As of April 29, US$1 wasequivalent to 64.65 Russian Rubles.
SNL Metals & Mining andStandard & Poor's Ratings Services are owned by S&P Global.