Rio helped by sale of Alcan

MINING giant Rio Tinto said yesterday it had disposed of $7bn (&pound;4.3bn) of assets over the past 18 months, as it strives to pay off its debt mountain.<br /><br />The news came a day after it sold its Alcan Composites arm, which makes specialist materials, to Swiss group Schweiter Technologies for $349m. <br /><br />Rio bought the Canadian aluminium maker Alcan at the top of the market in 2007 for &pound;38bn, saddling the miner with a huge debt pile. It said at the time it intended to dispose of the non-core operations of Alcan, but the planned sale was scuppered by the downturn, which saw asset values plummet.<br /><br />Last month, Rio confirmed it had a $2bn offer for a large slab of Alcan&rsquo;s packaging unit, including its pharmaceuticals, tobacco, and European and Asian food arms. It has already sold off the food packaging division of Alcan to Bemis for $1.2bn.<br /><br />&ldquo;In the last three months we have made significant inroads into divesting the downstream assets acquired with Alcan, including offers or agreed sales for the majority of Alcan Packaging and Cable,&rdquo; Rio&rsquo;s finance director Guy Elliott said.<br /><br />The sale to Schweiter will close by the end of the year, Rio said, but is subject to regulatory approvals and consultations with employees.