The net loss of $26M follows Alumina’s $168M net profit in 2008 during a commodities boom. Underlying losses after tax for 2009 were $2M, compared to an underlying profit of $202M the previous year.

But Alumina chief John Bevan says the outlook for improved returns for shareholders has strengthened.

“The 2009 result reflects the worst of the impact of the global financial crisis on aluminium and alumina prices,” Mr Bevan said. ‘‘The global bauxite and alumina business remained profitable throughout the downturn and the smelters returned to profitability in the final quarter.’’

Alumina is the 40% partner of the Alcoa World Alumina & Chemicals (AWAC) group, an international network of alumina refineries, bauxite mines and chemical plants. US-based Alcoa is the operator of AWAC with a 60% stake.

Alumina production during 2009 dipped to 13.5Mt, compared to 14.4Mt the previous year.

Mr Bevan said production capacity was increased 15% during the year due to the commissioning of the expanded Brazilian operations and the acquisition of the remaining 45% in the Suralco refinery, in Suriname.

AWAC alumina production was forecast to increase by about 2Mt in 2010 on increased customer demand, while production costs were likely to remain the same, the company said.