GFG Alliance (owned by Sanjeev Gupta) completed its purchase of Aluminium Dunkerque, Europe’s largest aluminum smelter, from Rio Tinto for around US$500 million. GFG aims to make the smelter – to be renamed Liberty Aluminium Dunkerque – a foundation for a wider integrated manufacturing business serving the French and European markets. The acquisition paves the way for a downstream investment program at the plant in order to maximize the value of the aluminum currently produced at the site.
The Aluminum Dunkerque plant was founded in 1991 in Northern France, and occupies approximately 161 acres of land. It is the largest primary aluminum smelter in Europe, manufacturing of aluminum slabs and ingots with over 99% purity. The ingots and slabs are requested for a number of value added applications in the transport, automotive, aerospace, packaging, building and construction industries. In 2017, the plant produced 284,000 tonnes of aluminum, of which 237,000 tonnes were rolling slabs, and 47,000 tonnes foundry ingots. The plant has 570 workers.
The site has three major manufacturing areas, including anode production, electrolysis, and casting area. The anode production area manufactures the anodes used on site during the electrolysis process. The electrolysis area includes two 850 m long electrolysis potlines with 264 reduction cells. The casting section receives liquid aluminium from the potrooms, which is then cast into rolling slab and extrusion ingot (DC casting) or foundry ingot for use in the automotive sector.
The acquisition of Aluminium Dunkerque follows GFG’s acquisition of France’s only remaining producer of aluminum vehicle wheels, AR Industries (now called Liberty Wheels France) earlier in 2018. The wheel manufacturer was already a key customer of the Dunkerque smelter. This deal marked a significant move into the French downstream manufacturing sector and saved over 90% of the jobs at the Chateauroux plant.
“Today is a real milestone in our European investment journey and the fulfillment of our promise to establish a firm foundation for a new vibrant and integrated industrial business in France that will create high-value products that sustain high-value jobs,” said Sanjeev Gupta, GFG executive chairman. “Liberty Aluminium Dunkerque and Liberty Wheels France provide excellent facilities, expertise and skilled workforces that enable us to grow strongly through long-term investments. The studies for Liberty Aluminium Dunkerque’s investment in value-added aluminium have confirmed our initial assumptions and we’ll continue our work on developing the investment program.”