In big Europe push, Liberty House buys Rio Tinto’s French aluminium smelter

Vidya Ram London | Updated on January 10, 2018

Sanjeev Gupta, Executive chairman, Liberty House Group   -  Simon Dawson

The company also eyes French steel maker Asco Industries

Industrialist Sanjeev Gupta’s Liberty House, part of the GFG Alliance, is to acquire Europe’s largest aluminium smelter in Dunkerque, France, kick-starting a major expansion by the company into mainland Europe.

Liberty House, hopes to complete the acquisition of the Rio Tinto facility, which must still be the subject of an employee consultation process, by the second quarter of the year. It believes thousands more jobs could be created at the 570-worker plant as it plans further investment into the site to create an international aluminium products hub to tap into the growing demand for aluminium particular from the automotive sector.

The company estimates that in Europe alone demand for aluminium for vehicles will rise to 4.3 million tonnes from 3.3 million tonnes a year by 2024, given the increasing focus on light-weight materials, and vehicles with a lower carbon footprint. “Our detailed analysis leads us to believe that Dunkerque is the best location to drive forward our downstream automotive strategy. Aluminium Dunkerque has a high-quality aluminium operation benefitting from a top-class workforce and management,” said Gupta following the announcement. “This investment will help fulfil our ambitions in the sector, further enabling us to capitalise fully on expected growth in demand for aluminium over the coming years.”

He added that the “pro-business environment’ created by French President Emmanuel Macron, added to the attractiveness of the asset, and the company will be looking at ways to bring its other divisions, including energy, banking and property development.

The company is also bidding for French steel maker, Asco Industries, which employs around 1,500 people across the country, and which Liberty believes is similar to its speciality steel business in the UK (which it acquired from Tata Steel last May).

The Dunkerque acquisition will further build Liberty House’s aluminium base in Europe, following its acquisition in December 2016 of Rio Tinto’s aluminium smelter in Lochaber, Scotland, in which it is currently investing 120 million pounds.

The company has made a string of other high-profile investments, globally, including acquiring Australian mining and steel business Arrium, as part of its strategy of acquiring under pressure or distressed businesses and integrating them with its end-to-end business.

Published on January 10, 2018

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