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Kobe Steel Ltd. said Friday it has signed an agreement to sell its 9.5 percent interest in Australian aluminum refiner Boyne Smelters Ltd. for around $78.5 billion to Comalco Ltd.

The move is in line with Kobe Steel’s plan to reduce its investment in development projects overseas in order to concentrate on its core aluminum-rolling business, the firm said in a news release.

Kobe Steel said the deal is expected to close in the third quarter of 2002 after approval from the Australian government and other shareholders of Boyne Smelters.

Boyne Smelters produced 509,00 tons of aluminum in 2001. Kobe Steel has a 9.5 percent interest in production lines 1 and 2, which together produced 273,000 tons of aluminum.

Comalco, a major Australian supplier of bauxite, alumina and primary aluminum, currently holds a 50 percent share in Boyne Smelters.

As part of its plan to reduce investment abroad, Kobe Steel sold a portion of its stake in Kobe Alumina Associates (Australia) Pty Ltd. to Japanese trading company Itochu Corp. in March. Kobe Alumina Associates has an equity stake in Worsley Alumina Pty Ltd., an alumina refinery in Australia.

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