Japan buyers agree to pay Q1 aluminum premiums of $85-$86/t, sources say

Aluminum ingots. (Image courtesy of Rio Tinto).

The premiums for aluminum shipments to Japanese buyers for January to March were set at $85-$86 a tonne, down 13%-14% from the previous quarter, reflecting slack demand and high stocks, six sources directly involved in pricing talks said.

The figures are lower than the $99 per tonne paid in the October-December quarter and mark a fifth consecutive quarterly decline and the lowest premium since the July-September quarter of 2020.

Japan is Asia’s biggest aluminum importer and the premiums for primary metal shipments it agrees to pay each quarter over the benchmark London Metal Exchange (LME) cash price set the benchmark for the region.

Producers initially offered $95-$105 per tonne, but were forced to lower the levels in lengthy negotiations as repeated delays in automobile production recovery and ample inventories kept local demand sluggish, the sources said.

Aluminum stocks at three major Japanese ports stood at 381,830 tonnes at the end of December, against 296,500 tonnes a year earlier, Marubeni Corp said this month.

The quarterly pricing talks began in late November between Japanese buyers and global suppliers, including Rio Tinto Ltd and South32 Ltd.

Some buyers had settled at $86 a tonne late last year, but other buyers fought for lower levels, achieving $85 a tonne from a producer in mid-January, the sources said.

As the negotiations dragged on for a month longer than usual, another producer and several buyers responded with an $86 offer and an $85 bid, the sources said.

A source at a producer said all deals agreed had been at $86 a tonne, and predicted an outstanding deal would be agreed in a $85-$86 range, while a source at a Japanese trading house said all deals were done at $85 a tonne.

A third source at a Japanese fabricator said it settled at $86 a tonne.

The sources declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the discussions.

(By Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Barbara Lewis)


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