France to lend $340 mln to New Caledonia nickel group – media (Reuters U.S. – April 26, 2016)

France is set to provide 300 million euros ($340 million) in loans to New Caledonia nickel producer Societe Le Nickel (SLN) as it struggles with weak prices for the metal, a French weekly newspaper reported.

Le Journal du Dimanche reported the move on Sunday, citing unidentified sources. It comes as French Prime Minister Manual Valls is due to visit the French territory in the Pacific later this week.

Nickel output accounts for about a fifth of New Caledonia’s economy. But a slump in prices is pressuring its three smelters, owned by Glencore, Vale and SLN, a unit of French conglomerate Eramet.

New Caledonia holds around a quarter of the world’s reserves of nickel, used in everything from stainless steel to batteries.

New Caledonia had until recently resisted selling ore directly to large consuming countries such as China, hoping to protect its local smelting industry.

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