Russia's metals giant Norilsk Nickel expects to book a $2 billion net profit for last year after it ended 2008 with a loss of $449 million, Russian media reported on Saturday.

The Russian news agencies also quoted Vladimir Strzhalkovsky, the head of the world's largest nickel and palladium miner, as saying that the company has redeemed a loan of $1.25 billion thank to the profit.

He did not elaborate on the loan at the meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and it was not immediately clear, to what banks the debt was repaid.

On Friday, Norilsk Nickel said it had raised its nickel output forecast for this year to 299,000-309,000 tons from a previous outlook of 300,000 tons.

Norilsk's main shareholders are billionaire Vladimir Potanin and UC RUSAL <0486.HK>, the indebted aluminum giant controlled by another Russian industrial magnate, Oleg Deripaska.

(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin)