Can aluminium boost non-oil revenues in the GCC?

Can aluminium boost non-oil revenues in the GCC?
GCC countries are turning to aluminium production in a bid to support their economic diversification plans.
Published: 12 December 2015 - 5:32 a.m.
By: Neha Bhatia

Notable government investments and The Big 5 2015 made November a busy month for the GCC’s aluminium sector.

Firstly, Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund, Mumtalakat, announced a fresh set of funding plans for the metal industry during the month.

Over two consecutive days, reports stated Mumtalakat would invest in Spanish materials producer, Aleastur, as well as form a joint venture with India’s Synergies Castings.

In a Reuters report dated 17 November, Joseph Kirikian, head of industries and services at Mumtalakat, said the Aleastur investment comes in light of the Spanish company’s expansion plans.

“We are taking a minority stake and helping the company to expand into the Gulf,” Kirikian said.

While he did not reveal the total value of the investment, Kirikian said he hopes the deal would “close soon”.

Speaking to Construction Week about Mumtalakat’s plans for Aleastur, Mahmood Al Kooheji, the sovereign wealth fund’s CEO, says: “We can confirm that we are in discussions but cannot comment any further at this stage. In the event that there is anything to announce, [then] we will update the market in due course.”

Al Kooheji, however, divulges Mumtalakat’s strategy for Synergies Castings, with which it inked a joint venture on 18 November.

“The joint venture stipulates the development of a new aluminium casting and specialty alloy wheel manufacturing facility in Bahrain,” he says.

“This will be a cornerstone project at the new molten metal park – being developed adjacent to Aluminium Bahrain (Alba) – which is a combined initiative between Mumtalakat and the Bahrain Economic Development Board.”

Al Kooheji says the project, it is hoped, will diversify the Bahraini aluminium sector, while the global industry moves towards attracting higher value-added downstream capabilities than currently available.

“The facility will offer design, engineering, advanced simulation, product development and manufacturing capabilities, with an annual production capacity of approximately 25,000 metric tonnes,” he continues.

“The manufacturing facility is expected to create approximately 600 new jobs in Bahrain. Mumtalakat will hold a 49% stake in the joint venture with Synergies, and will support the project by procuring all necessary approvals prior to production,” he adds.

Alba is listed on both the Bahrain Bourse and London Stock Exchange, and the company’s shareholders include Mumtalakat (69.38%) and SABIC Industrial Investment Company (20.62), besides general public (10%).

Mumtalakat’s increased focus on the aluminium sector reiterates Bahrain’s faith in the building material as an economically-diversified investment opportunity.

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