Government Palladium Monopoly Ended

Russia, the world's biggest palladium producer, ended a government monopoly on exports of the metal and on platinum.

President Dmitry Medvedev Thursday signed amendments to a law on budget and tax policy that strips Almazyuvelirexport of its monopoly on exports of so-called platinum group metals, for which the state trading company charged fees, the Kremlin said Friday.

The palladium and platinum reserves of Norilsk Nickel were classified as a state secret until 2005. The company did not have permits to export platinum, used in jewelry, for four months last year.

"We're happy with the further liberalization of the platinum market," Norilsk spokeswoman Maria Uvarova said by phone. "Platinum fits into our overall metal sales strategy and we don't foresee any issues arising from the changes."

Norilsk, whose biggest shareholder is billionaire Vladimir Potanin, is the also the world's biggest producer of nickel and the country's largest producer of copper.

In 2009, Norilsk expects to produce 73,992 to 74,417 kilograms of palladium, it said in a presentation on its web site.

The company warned last month that it would axe its dividend this year and cut its foreign output, warning that its net profit in 2009 might only be a quarter of this year's level.

Bloomberg, Reuters