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Report: Rio Tinto in talks to off-load aluminum assets in France

Rio Tinto is said to be in early talks with potential buyers for its Dunkerque aluminum smelter in northern France amid rising prices, Bloomberg News reported Oct. 6, citing anonymous sources.

The smelter has an annual production capacity of 270,000 tonnes.

The global mining giant is also considering selling its Iceland-based Reykjavik aluminum smelter and is renewing efforts to off-load its Pacific Aluminium Pty Ltd. assets in Australia and New Zealand.

The Pacific Aluminium assets include three smelters and a power station in Australia, as well as a plant in New Zealand.

Rio Tinto separated the Pacific Aluminium assets for a potential sale in 2011 but abandoned the idea two years later.

According to Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Paul Gait, higher aluminum prices present Rio Tinto with an opportunity to land better valuations for the assets than a year ago.

"It definitely is the case that they can strike while the iron's hot," Gait told Bloomberg, while also noting that additional sales will show CEO Jean-Sébastien Jacques's commitment to off-loading smaller and less attractive operations.

In November 2016, Rio Tinto agreed to sell its aluminum assets at Lochaber, Scotland, to commodity group SIMEC for US$410 million.