By Ruben Meloyan
Russia’s number one aluminum manufacturer inaugurated on Thursday its newly modernized Armenian subsidiary, presenting it as the most advanced facility of its kind in Europe.
Top executives from the Russky Allyuminii (Rusal) group announced the completion of a two-year renovation of the Yerevan-based aluminum foil plant Armenal, saying that it has cost $80 million in capital investments and promising a sharp increase in its production levels.
“The plant will be manufacturing foil of the highest quality,” Aleksandr Livshits, Rusal’s vice-chairman, said at a special ceremony attended by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and other senior Armenian officials. “Almost all of the production will be exported, and Armenal will provide Armenia with more taxes, jobs and hard currency.”
Armenal was founded as a Russian-Armenian joint venture in 2000 on the ashes of the Kanaker Aluminum Plant, an industrial giant which employed thousands of people in Soviet times. Rusal gained full ownership of the plant in December 2002 and seems to have breathed new life in it since then. It borrowed $50 million from a German bank and claims to have invested $30 million of its own resources to turn Armenal into what Livshits described as “the best aluminum foil plant in Europe.”
Livshits said new state-of-the-art equipment supplied and installed there by a German engineering firm will enable Armenal to produce up to 25,000 tons of aluminum rolls and foil a year. The company’s aggregate output stood at just 5,500 tons and 9,000 tons in 2002 and 2003 respectively.
Livshits said the Russian group is now considering increasing its production capacity to 40,000 tons. He also promised lavish pay rises for more than a thousand people working at Armenal. “I have instructed the Armenal management to pay, pay and pay. The more, the better,” he told them.
Markarian praised Rusal’s track record in Armenia, saying that it underscores the importance of foreign investment for the country’s economic development.
Rusal controls nearly 80 percent of aluminum production in Russia and ranks second worldwide in the sector. Its largest shareholder, billionaire Oleg Deripaska, is one Russia’s best-known “oligarchs” who hugely benefited from controversial privatization policies pursued by the administration of former President Boris Yeltsin during the 1990s. Livshits, for his part, used to be Yeltsin’s top economic adviser and at one point served as Russia’s finance minister.