Tuesday, 10 January 2012


Alcoa to Curtail Operations in Italy, Spain


Hours before kicking off earnings season, Alcoa (AA: 9.44, +0.02, +0.16%) said on Monday it plans to scale down operations at three aluminum smelters in Italy and Spain to tighten expenses as metal prices continue to fall. The curtailment will reduce the company’s global smelting capacity by 12%, or 531,000 metric tons, with operations as its Portovesme, Italy, and La Coruna and Avilies, Spain, facilities impacted in the first half of 2012. Alcoa plans to permanently close the facility in Portovesme, which has capacity of 150,000 metric tons, but just partially and temporarily shut the operations in Spain. The company said those plants are among the highest-cost producers in the Alcoa system. The Pittsburgh-based company blamed the curtailments on an uncompetitive energy market combined with rising raw materials costs and falling aluminum prices, which are down 27% from their peak in 2011. The move is a part of Alcoa’s long-term goal of improving its aluminum production operating margins by cutting down on costs. Last week, Alcoa said it would permanently close its smelter in Alcoa, Tennessee, and two potlines at its Rockdale, Texas, smelter. The company is expected to cut a total of 240,000 metric tons, or about 5%, of its global smelting capacity. “In today’s rapidly changing global economy, it is imperative to respond quickly to maintain competitiveness,” said Chris Ayers, president of Alcoa Global Primary Products.  “This decision was made after thorough analysis of all the possible alternatives.” The company said the total impact on its workforce will not be determined until consultations with employee representatives and government have been completed. However, the three facilities employ a total of about 1,500. Alcoa also says it will aggressively accelerate plans to reduce the cost of raw materials used by its primary products business and adjust capacity in the global refining system to reflect internal demand and market conditions.


Santander Chairman Botin, Brother Lose Appeal in Spain Tax Case


Banco Santander SA Chairman Emilio Botin lost a bid at Spain’s National Court to block three groups’ ability to file complaints against him over accusations he broke national tax laws by hiding funds in Switzerland. Appeals by Botin, his brother Jaime Botin and other people contesting a November decision to allow the complaints by the three groups were rejected, the Madrid-based court said today in a ruling sent by e-mail. In Spain, any citizen can make a so- called popular accusation in legal proceedings even if they are not directly involved in the matter. The court said in June it would investigate Botin and 11 family members after tax officials received information on clients at HSBC Holdings Plc’s Swiss private bank from French authorities. The Botin family, in a statement distributed by Santander at the time, said it has put its tax affairs in order “voluntarily,” has met all its tax obligations and hopes the case will be cleared up in court. A spokesman for Spain’s largest bank, who asked not to be identified in line with company policy, declined to comment today in a phone interview. The complaints were made by three groups called Ciudadania Anticorrupcion, Asociacion Contra La Corrupcion Sistemica Y En Defensa Del Libre Ejercicio De La Acusacion Popular and Manos Limpias, the court said.

Spanish Home Sales Decline for the Ninth Straight Month as Economy Shrinks


Spanish home sales declined in November for a ninth month as the economy contracted and unemployment surged. The number of transactions fell 14.4 percent from a year earlier, the National Statistics Institute in Madrid said in an e-mailed statement today. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, the People’s Party leader whose government took over from the Socialists on Dec. 22, has said he will restore a tax rebate for the purchase of homes to spur the market as a 23 percent unemployment rate weighs on demand. Spain is struggling to work through an excess of 700,000 new homes after the collapse of a building boom saddled banks with 176 billion euros ($225 billion) of what the Bank of Spain calls “troubled” assets linked to real estate. Spain’s economy contracted in the final months of 2011 as tourism and exports, the drivers of a recovery in the first-half from a three-year slump, weakened, the Bank of Spain said on Dec. 29


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