Moscow, Apr 9 (AFP) Shares in Russian aluminium giant Rusal collapsed today after Washington targeted it with sanctions, putting the metals major at risk of defaulting on part of its debt.

On the Hong Kong stock market, one of the exchanges where Rusal’s stock is listed, it closed 50 per cent down at HK dollar 2.34.

The fall wiped more than USD 4.3 billion off the market capitalisation of the company which is headed by billionaire Oleg Deripaska and accounts for some seven per cent of the worlds aluminium production.

In Moscow, the other exchange where its shares trade, they were down 23 per cent in midsession business.

The meltdown came after US President Donald Trump on Friday announced sanctions against Russian oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin following the diplomatic crisis sparked by the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal.

Washington has accused Deripaska of operating for the Russian government. Other magnates hit by sanctions include the director of state-owned energy giant Gazprom, Alexei Miller.

Moscow today said it would support Russian companies affected by the sanctions.

“We take great care with our leading companies… In the current situation, as their position becomes more difficult, we will offer them this support,” deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich was quoted as saying by news agencies.

Support measures had already been discussed with the companies ahead of the imposition of the new sanctions, he said.

In a statement, Rusal said the sanctions “may result in technical defaults in relation to certain credit obligations of the group”.

The latest wave of sanctions also saw Russian stock market indices plummet around 10 per cent.

The RTS index, which trades in dollars, fell 11.5 per cent, and the MOEX index, which trades in roubles, fell 9.2 per cent.

Russia’s currency also took a hit, with the dollar and euro rising to 59.37 and 72.85 against the rouble respectively.

Meanwhile aluminium prices surged on the London metals stock market (LME).

As of 0930 GMT, the price of aluminium had surged 3.55 per cent to USD 2,114.50, its biggest jump in three years. (AFP) MRJ MRJ

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.