Polymetal shuns local sales in favor of exports

Credit: Polymetal International Plc

Polymetal International Plc, a London-listed gold miner operating mainly in Russia, said it’s avoiding selling to the country’s banks as they will only buy at a discount.

While sanctions on state-run lenders have already choked off Polymetal’s traditional sales routes, the company is able to sell to non-sanctioned banks. Yet those institutions are now only purchasing gold at a discount to international prices, pushing the miner toward shipments abroad.

Even though the discount is small, “our strategy is to sell as much as possible for export,” Chief Executive Officer Vitaly Nesis said Monday on an investor call, the company’s first since Russia invaded Ukraine. Sales in Kazakhstan, the producer’s other main country of operations, are not affected, he said.

Russia’s gold miners have typically sold to a few, mostly state-run, local banks such as Sberbank PJS, VTB Bank PJSC and Bank Otkritie, which then export the metal. Sanctions mean that selling to those institutions is now not an option, and although the central bank has said it will start purchasing bullion again after a two-year pause, it isn’t expected to buy as much as it used to.

Polymetal on Monday reaffirmed its 2022 production guidance of 1.7 million ounces, but said the “devastating war” in Ukraine and the resulting sanctions had put it under “tremendous pressure.” Earlier this month, the firm postponed a decision on dividend payments, citing uncertainty over the availability of funds, higher working-capital needs and other balance-sheet constraints.

Polymetal is considering splitting its Russian and Kazakh businesses, the company said in March. Nesis said Monday that the firm continues to study such a move and its potential benefits for investors. The miner’s primary London listing remains important, he said.


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