UAE -based Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA) is bullish about the global aluminium market and plans a capital expenditure of $5 billion by 2020, said the chief executive of the company.
"We have to make the investment to be strong and grow as one of the world's top five," said Abdulla Kalban , addressing the Arabal conference in Bahrain where chief executives of other Gulf smelters were also present.
EGA has a five-year strategic plan including consolidating the merger of Dubal and Emal, a process that has made good progress, he said.
"We're expecting demand to come. Demand is coming from construction, electronics, packaging and transportation industries," he said.
Kalban also said he was optimistic over the aluminium market because of expected demand growth in the Middle East , Russia and China .
The official gave a review of the two smelters making up EGA – Dubal and Emal – and said the company was taking care of future requirements in the upstream.
He said the first phase of the bauxite mine development in Guinea would be completed by the end of 2017 while the alumina refinery in the African nation would be operational by 2022.
"We're also excited over the Shaheen Project in Abu Dhabi ." said Kalban, referring to the plan to build an alumina refinery near the Emal plant. "The feasibility studies have been completed and approved. Phase 1 capacity will be 2 million tonnes per year with completion by 2017. Phase 2 will have capacity of 2 million tonnes and be completed by 2020.
Kalban recalled that the idea of investing in the upstream came some nine years ago when "we were at the control of suppliers." After exploratory visits to places including India , Africa and Brazil , the company was successful in finalising an agreement in Guinea , one of the best bauxite markets in the world.
He observed that most GCC smelters had value-addition to most of their production and noted that the premium was 22 per cent over the price.
Kalban also said Dubal had instituted projects to reduce costs, enhance technology and increase environmental performance. EGA was also pursuing a target to achieve zero harm to people and the environment. Towards this end it is focusing on the best available technology.
Ma'aden president Abdulaziz A Al Harbi said the company's alumina refinery of 1.8 million tonnes would begin production by the end of 2014 and planning is under way for a start-up of the rolling mill. A caustic soda plant in the joint venture with Sahara would ensure a reliable chemical supply.
He did not think coming to the competition at a late hour was detrimental to its interests. "There's a place in the market for everybody," he said. Additionally, Ma'aden was a unique, integrated project.
Qatalum's chief executive Tom Petter Johansen said a Phase 2 of the Qatar smelter had not yet begun because first there was the global financial downturn and then a situation where aluminium inventories were large – more than 12 million tonnes globally.
He did not think the price increases in recent weeks were sustainable and the fact that there was a large aluminium inventory meant a decision to have an expansion had no urgency.
"We need to see changes in the fundamentals before a decision can be made," he said. Qatalum's capacity has moved up from the installed level of 575,000 tonnes annually to around 600,000 tonnes through bottlenecking in recent years. Forty per cent of its production goes to the automotive sector.
"We're a 100 per cent value-addition business. We're producing billets for foundry; alloys to the automobile industry. We're a high-tech competitor but still we need to see continued improvements in prices. The concern is that it will slide," Johansen said. Qatalum has a cost-cutting programme aimed at slashing costs by $150 per tonne by 2013. The programme started in 2013.
Sohar Aluminium chief executive Said Al Masoudi concentrated on Omanisation and skills building in his company. He said Omanisation goals were being met through a structured competence development programme that would encourage Omanis to join the company.