Thursday, March 2nd, 2023
Russia’s top miner, MMC Norilsk Nickel, is selling some of its metal in yuan at prices set in Shanghai, a sign of how the invasion of Ukraine is redrawing global commodity flows and handing greater power to China.
Nornickel, as the company is known, has this year sold some spot volumes to China using a mixture of London Metal Exchange and Shanghai Futures Exchange nickel prices, according to people familiar with the matter. The volumes based on SHFE prices are being paid for in yuan, the people said, asking not to be identified as the matter isn’t public.
The shift comes as Nornickel, which supplies about 7% of the world’s nickel, hopes to boost sales to China this year as some European buyers shun Russian commodities.
Nornickel’s Chinese customers are also pushing to link long-term contracts to Shanghai prices, the people said. Negotiations over the long-term contracts are still ongoing, they said, although they may also involve a mix of LME and SHFE pricing.
China, the world’s largest consumer of commodities, has long pushed for greater control over pricing. Still, the vast majority of global commodity trade is still based on global benchmark prices in dollars.
The shift to SHFE pricing was proposed by Chinese authorities some time ago, as they see it as a more stable benchmark than the LME, one of the people said.
The LME’s nickel contract has been hit by sharp price swings and a slump in trading volumes since last March, when the exchange suspended trading for a week after a massive short squeeze.
While the US and UK have sanctioned Nornickel’s top shareholder and president, Vladimir Potanin, no penalties have been placed on the company itself or its exports. Still, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to disruptions in logistics, insurance, banking and shipping, putting pressure on Nornickel to accept its Chinese customers’ demands.
Nornickel is likely to lower nickel output by 4% to 5% from 2022’s level of 219,000 tons as it conducts maintenance that had been put off from last year due to equipment supply issues, it said in January. The company is also restructuring logistics chains with focus on more friendly countries, primarily China, Turkey, Morocco and Arab countries, Potanin said in an interview with RBC TV.