Codelco Sees Solid Interest From China for Copper Contracts

Codelco, the largest copper producer, said there’s “sound and solid” interest from customers in China for next year amid signs of an economic recovery in the world’s biggest market for the metal.

“There’s a lot of optimism regarding copper demand going forward,” Chief Executive Officer Thomas Keller said today in an interview in Shanghai. Demand may grow about 5 percent to 7 percent next year in China, he said, citing analysts’ estimates.

The world’s second-largest economy in September approved plans to build as much as 2,018 kilometers (1,254 miles) of roads and subways estimated by Nomura Holdings Inc. to be worth about 1 trillion yuan ($161 billion). Data from factory production to retail sales show growth in China picking up this quarter after a seven-quarter slowdown and Rio Tinto Group Chief Executive Officer Tom Albanese said this week the nation is beginning to see “green shoots”.

“We’re positive about the prospects for next year, which to some extent has been confirmed by the interest our clients have demonstrated in our contracts for next year,” Keller said. “The interest is very sound and solid.”

Copper in London is poised for a monthly gain as the metal in Shanghai rose to the highest in more than five weeks. The contract for delivery in three months added 0.7 percent to $7,955 a metric ton on the London Metal Exchange at 3:58 p.m. in Singapore and is up 2.5 percent this month. Futures in Shanghai added 1.6 percent to 57,300 yuan ($9,227) a ton, the highest close since Oct. 24.

China Confidence

Confidence in China’s economy is at the highest in more than a year amid optimism that the new leadership headed by Xi Jinping will be better for the financial climate, according to a Bloomberg investor poll.

Respondents who see the economy improving or remaining stable surged to 72 percent this week from September’s 38 percent in the quarterly global poll of investors, analysts and traders who are Bloomberg subscribers. Fifty-three percent said they’re more optimistic about the effect of Xi’s policies on investors, up from 42 percent who were asked in September about President Hu Jintao.

China’s new leadership may be a boost for the copper industry should it continue with policies that accelerate urbanization, Codelco’s Keller said.

“We have ground to believe that kind of policy will underpin copper demand,” he said. “Urbanization is very copper demand-intensive exercise.”

Copper Premiums

Santiago, Chile-based Codelco plans to cut the premium on sales to China by 11 percent to $98 for 2013, according to two people familiar with the talks. Keller said contracts are still being finalized, while not confirming the premium figures.

The global market may move into surplus next year from a shortage, according to estimates by the International Wrought Copper Council and Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd.

Refined output will exceed demand by 281,000 tons in 2013 after a shortage of 545,000 tons this year, according to the council. The market may have a surplus of 200,000 tons next year, compared with a deficit of 113,000 tons this year, ANZ’s Nick Trevethan, senior commodity strategist, said in a report this week.

“Even if there’s a surplus, it going to be marginal,” Keller said. “Whether we are moving to a surplus or whether we remain in a deficit, it doesn’t have much of impact in terms of the copper prices.”

State-owned Codelco is targeting annual output of more than 2 million tons toward the end of the decade, from “slightly below” 1.7 million tons this year, Keller said. The company is investing $4 billion on expansions this year and $25 billion over the next five years, he said. Codelco is reviewing investment plans amid increasing costs, according to Keller.

— With assistance by Helen Yuan, and Margaret Conley

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