The sale of the composite materials manufacturing business known as Alcan Composites takes Rio's announced non-core asset sales to more than $7bn since the programme began in March last year.

The need for Rio to push on with the asset sales programme, as well as to take more drastic action, was highlighted by its recent disclosure that its net debt at June 30 this year stood at an uncomfortable $39.1bn.

Rio said that the deal with Schweiter was expected to be completed by the end of the year. The deal followed the sale of 56% of the engineered products division to Platinum Equity for an undisclosed sum. Schweiter gets a business which posted sales of $649M EBITDA in the year to August 30.