The aluminium strategy of the Kingdom of Bahrain is focused on its downstream sector, with the country having already signed three agreements for investments based on its smelter expansion project, an executive at the state’s investment arm said.

The investments will come in the form of processing the additional metal produced at the expansion of the Aluminium Smelting Co of Bahrain (Alba), a $2.5 billion project which, upon completion, will expand the plant’s production capacity by about 45%, or 400,000 tonnes of liquid aluminium.

“At Mumtalakat, we are currently in discussions with a number of potential partners, and in fact have already signed three Memoranda of Understanding with leading global aluminium downstream companies to establish operations in Bahrain and capture the value from using the liquid aluminium,” Joseph Kirikian, vp investments at Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Co, said.

Joseph Kirikian, vp investments, Bahrain Mumtalakat

“The first of these will see construction on a physical plant commence in the first quarter of 2014,” Kirikian added.

The initiative will help Bahrain capture a significant portion of the value chain, creating many co-investment opportunities as well as providing almost 2,000 new employment opportunities.

Aluminium already contributes 12% to Bahrain’s gross domestic product, making it one of the country’s more significant economic activities.

Mumtalakat's broader portfolio of assets provides employment for over 11,000 people, of whom 70% are Bahrainis.

Focus on downstream
Whilst the economic downturn impacted markets globally, Kirikian said that emerging markets such as Bahrain are now experiencing greater GDP growth than developed markets. This is one reason why the focus is on investments within the Gulf Cooperation Council Nations at this stage, Kirikian said.

Mumtalakat was created in 2006 to be Bahrain’s investment arm, focusing on the management, development and growth of the kingdom’s non-oil and gas assets. Mumtalakat also sees itself as the partner of choice for companies looking to capitalise on the investment potential of Bahrain and the wider region.

Mumtalakat owns a 69% stake in Alba.

According to Kirikian, Mumtalakat identified a number of key sectors for investment this year, and has allocated about $150 million to invest during 2013.

“We have identified four attractive key sub-sectors to invest in for the aluminium downstream cluster: cable & wire, specialty automotive wheels, CC flat rolling and large press extrusions and will target the MENA, Asia, Europe, USA and other growing markets,” Kirikian said.

The investments in the downstream area will be in a joint venture structure alongside Mumtalakat’s operating partners. Mumtalakat will invest up to 49% of the equity portion with its partners to take a majority share of the investment.

“For example, the operating partner will set up the plant and operate it end-to-end including the sourcing, production, distribution and marketing, while Mumtalakat will facilitate the access to liquid aluminium, industrial land co-located with the smelter, regulatory requirements, and of course support the venture with its local government network,” Kirikian told Metal Bulletin.

Aluminium has been part of the fabric of Bahrain for over 40 years through Alba. But while the smelting side of the country’s activities is well established, the current size of the downstream industry in Bahrain is 450,000 tonnes. The line 6 expansion at Alba will see this capacity almost double.

Mumtalakat is “open to explore” upstream activities such as bauxite and alumina, he noted, but the current focus is on the downstream subsectors.

“Keeping the metal in liquid form and immediately processing it further into finished or semi-finished products yields significant savings for both the smelter and downstream companies that absorb liquid aluminium,” Kirikian said.

“These savings will translate into more than $100 per tonne that will flow directly to the bottom line,” he added.

Andrea Hotter
Twitter: @andreahotter