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Message: Sherritt, Sumitomo Defer Payments on Ambatovy Nickel Project

August 5, 2016 — 3:37 AM EDT Updated on August 5, 2016 — 4:37 AM EDT

The owners of the Ambatovy nickel mine in Madagascar said they had agreed to defer project financing payments to lenders of $565 million as they wait for prices to improve.

The six deferrals, beginning in June 2016, provide “additional time for nickel prices to recover and allows the partners to manage their ongoing funding requirements,” according to a statement from Canadian miner and refiner Sherritt International Corp., 40 percent owner of the project.

Sumitomo Corp. booked a 77 billion yen ($762 million) impairment charge on Ambatovy in the last fiscal year to March, following a collapse in the price of the metal. The Japanese trade house holds 32.5 percent and Korea Resources Corp. the remainder.

Ambatovy was established in 2005 as a project that would integrate mining to refining, two years before nickel prices hit a record closing high in London of $51,600 a metric ton. The metal currently trades at $10,640 a ton, a casualty of fading growth in China, the world’s biggest metals consumer.

The metal used in stainless steel has climbed about 20 percent this year as a new government in the Philippines, the world’s biggest supplier of nickel ore, threatens to shutter mines that don’t comply with environmental rules.

Deferring payment “will allow Ambatovy to manage cash flow under current low nickel price environment,” Sumitomo said in its own statement.

Interest payments will continue to be made semi-annually, while the deferred payments will carry an extra 2 percent and will be repaid beginning in 2021, or earlier subject to cash flow, according to Sherritt.

The lenders include the government-affiliated Japan Bank for International Cooperation, the Export-Import Bank of Korea, and Export Development Canada, according to a Sumitomo spokesman, who asked not to be named due to company policy.

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