“Liberty is looking to become a major player in aluminium – it’s already huge in nickel and steel and wants to make a similar foray in the aluminium industry,” one source close to the company said.
“It is already involved along the supply chain, from green energy and hydro power to smelting aluminium and making value-added products. Now it wants to complete the cycle and acquire raw material sites including bauxite and alumina, like it has done in steel,” the source added.
The group is in advanced discussions to buy more aluminium assets around the world, including one in Africa and some more in Europe, another source with knowledge of the matter told Metal Bulletin.
“I know of two at least and one is looking like it will happen soon,” the source added.
Liberty has gone on a £1 billion-plus spending spree over the past two years, mainly targeting steel mills and aluminium sites. It bought Rio Tinto’s aluminium smelter and hydro power plant in Scotland’s Fort William in 2016 for $410 million and relaunched the Liberty British Aluminium brand under the helm of executive Matt Powell.
In addition to serving the international market with semi-finished aluminium, Liberty is investing £120 million ($159 million) to upgrade the Fort William smelter and add value through the development of downstream manufacturing of alloy wheels for the UK and European automotive industry, it said on its website.
Some in the market have questioned how sustainable Liberty’s rapid acquisition strategy was, with one source telling Metal Bulletin that “at this rhythm of acquisitions, Liberty will blow up before too long.”
But sources close to the firm have defended their strategy and pointed out that assets purchased all have working capitals attached to them, bringing immediate returns – for instance, a power supply contract with Scotland’s national grid at Fort William.
Liberty House declined to comment.