Indonesia puts nickel export levy on hold to devise a price index first
Calls for nickel index came after LME nickel trading halt
Government looks to set levy based on nickel price index
Index could consist of NPI, MHP and possibly matte
Adds LME comment in paras 9,10; adds details throughout
By Fransiska Nangoy
JAKARTA, May 30 (Reuters) -Indonesia, the world's top nickel producer, has put on hold plans to tax nickel product exports while it works on creating a price index to ease volatility tied to the London Metal Exchange (LME) benchmark, a senior government official said on Tuesday.
The government plans to launch a nickel price index by the end of 2023 and needs it to be in place before going ahead with an export levy, Septian Hario Seto, a senior official with the investment coordinating ministry, told the SMM Indonesia Nickel-Cobalt conference in Jakarta.
The index could be used to calculate royalties and any export levy, Septian said.
"By the end of the year, the index will be created. We are still asking for the proposal from each index provider. We will see who has the best," he told reporters on the sidelines of the conference.
Indonesia produces a wide range of nickel products, most of which are of a lower "Class 2" purity grade from the underlying "Class 1" product for the global benchmark nickel contract on the LME, which has been exploring the appetite for a price referencing covering the lower grades.
Indonesia's move to create the index comes in response to calls from consumers, producers and traders after the LME suspended nickel trading for more than a week in March 2022 as prices soared in a record-breaking surge, Septian said.
"Since the LME incident last year ... we had a lot of feedback from smelters," he said.
Septian said the index was needed because the discount between the LME refined nickel price CMNI3 and the market price of nickel pig iron, the main nickel product traded in the world and mostly made in Indonesia, was highly volatile.
Also speaking on the sidelines of the conference, Edric Koh, head of LME corporate sales in Asia, reiterated the LME was considering responding to market demand for a lower-grade contract.
"There has been some market participants asking for a Class 2 contract, so we are exploring this very closely with the nickel community," Koh told reporters.
Septian said the index could consist of nickel pig iron, mixed hydroxide precipitate and possibly nickel matte.
Reporting by Fransiska Nangoy in Jakarta; Writing by Mai Nguyen; Editing by Sonali Paul and David Holmes
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