Biggest Aluminum Maker in Middle East Sees Prices Staying High

Emirates Global Aluminium PJSC, one of the world’s biggest producers of the metal, expects prices to remain elevated this year as the global economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic and vaccine rollouts continue.

Positive market sentiment from late 2020 “carried over to this year and continues to give us a strong outlook for 2021,” Chief Executive Officer Abdulnasser bin Kalban said in an interview on Tuesday.

Benchmark aluminum prices will probably remain around $2,000 per ton for 2021 as a whole, the United Arab Emirates-based company said. They’ve climbed roughly 12% this year to $2,218 in London -- the highest since mid-2018 -- amid a rally in commodities from metals to energy and food.

Biggest Aluminum Maker in Middle East Sees Prices Staying High

EGA, which has smelters in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and a bauxite mine in Guinea, had planned an initial public offering in 2018 or 2019. That was pulled after then-U.S. President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on aluminum imports from the UAE.

The company may still carry out a listing, though it’s not said when.

“The timing is a decision for our shareholders, and we will keep working on our financial performance so that when the shareholders are ready for a sale, we’re ready for it,” Chief Financial Officer Zouhir Regragui said.

EGA is equally owned by two sovereign wealth funds -- Investment Corp. of Dubai and Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Co.

U.S. Tariffs

Trump decided to end the 10% tariffs just before leaving office in January, but his successor Joe Biden then said they’d remain in place so as not to displace American producers.

“The matter is between the two governments,” said bin Kalban. “We were quite disappointed with the decision. We made it clear that our aluminum is an important part of the U.S.’s supply.”

Shipments from the UAE account for slightly more than 10% of U.S. aluminum imports.

EGA said earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization were 4.1 billion dirhams ($1.1 billion) in 2020, up 63% from the year before.

It expects better returns this year as it maximizes production and expands the Al Taweelah smelter in Abu Dhabi.

The company will try to sell more low-carbon aluminum to customers, according to bin Kalban. Last month, it announced a deal worth as much as 100 million euros ($120 million) to supply aluminum made with solar power to BMW AG.

Low-carbon aluminum is fast gaining traction, despite it being more expensive, with firms including Apple Inc. working with suppliers to reduce emissions. Electricity generation accounts for around 60% of the aluminum industry’s greenhouse-gas emissions and most smelters still use coal.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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