Major changes and investments announced by the European headquartered copper and copper alloy fabricators in 2017
Another long year for the European headquartered copper fabricators has been just filed and new additional challenges are going to affect the entire sector during 2018. This article points to summarize the main changes materialized in the copper fabricating scenario throughout 2017 regarding the European fabricators with reference not only to their activities in Europe but also worldwide.
The year was not marked by dramatic changes or relevant M&As, but, however, some interesting deals and new investments have been announced and are now under realization or finalization.
The Wieland Group, the largest European copper fabricator and one of the major ones worldwide, has completed a relevant turnaround in its top management marked by the arrival of a new CEO, Erwin Mayr, the first chairman in Wieland’s 200-year history coming from another company (Novelis Europe). The German Group, during 2017, has announced two acquisitions and several new investments at its existing facilities across the globe. In detail, in April 2017, Wieland has acquired all the assets related to the finned and enhanced surface tubes in copper, copper alloys and steel alloys owned by the US-based Wolverine Tube. Later, in October 2017, Wieland has confirmed the takeover of the majority stake in Kessler Sales & Distribution (KSD), US distributor of plumbing and related products with 10 locations across the US. Turning to the investments at its existing facilities, so far, Wieland has announced a US$ 20 million investment at its copper tubing facility in Pine Hall, North Carolina. The first round of investments, worth US$ 5 million, is scheduled to be operating by Q3 2018. The company is also going to invest more than € 3 million to expand its production capacity of profiled strips at its Singapore facility and € 6.5 million to install a new slitting line at the domestic location of Langenberg. Finally, in August, the company has set-up a new JV, BlueSea Technology AS, with Lerow AS in Norway for the development and marketing of brass fish nets and cages made of Wieland’s alloy BlueSea®SE1.
Viohalco SA, leading diversified Greek Group engaged, among others, in NF (non-ferrous) metals and steel, has just completed the merger of Halcor (its copper fabricating business) with Elval (its aluminium flat and profile product business). The new entity, Elvalhalcor S.A., will manage all Viohalco’s NF semi-finished product activities. As for the copper fabricating business, in addition to Halcor (largest single copper tubing facility in Europe) and Fitco (small brass rod plant based in Greece), the Group also runs Sofia Med, which supplies copper and copper alloy flat products and copper bars from Bulgaria. Sofia Med, now merged with Elval, has been growing a lot during the last three years and has just announced the installation of a hot-dip tinning line, which is expected to be operational within this year-end. In the meanwhile, Elvalhalcor has just confirmed the acquisition, through a capital increase, of a 50% stake in Nedzink B.V., one of the largest European suppliers of zinc titanium flat products based in the Netherlands and part of Koramic Holding S.A. Sofia Med decided to stop the production of zinc titanium strips in 2015. With this acquisition, Elvalhalcor further enlarges its spectrum of NF metals.
Aurubis AG, one of the world’s largest refiners of copper and among the leading suppliers of flat products of copper and copper alloys across the globe, has just confirmed a new organization in place since October 2017. The previous two reporting segments (Primary Copper and Copper Products) are replaced with two new segments: FRP (Flat Rolled Products) and MRP (Metal Refining & Processing). The FRP segment entails the production and sales of rolled products and specialty wires across all the Group’s international locations, while the MRP segment includes all the other Group’s activities, from the primary and secondary metals recovery up to the production and sales of standard copper products, such as wire rod, shapes, and copper bars. The new Group’s strategy includes, among others, the improvement of its multi-metal capabilities, the establishment of new sales channels for the non-copper metals, the capacity of processing increasingly complex raw materials and the production of additional metals.
Luvata, born in 2005 when the UK-based private equity investment firm Nordic Capital acquired the major activities of Outokumpu Copper Products (copper tubing and brass rod operations in Europe excluded), has completed, during 2017, a complex and structured disinvestment process from the copper fabricating business. First, in September 2016, Luvata’s Heat Transfer Technology (HTS) division was sold to the US-based Modine Manufacturing Company. Second, in October 2016, Mitsubishi Materials Corporation acquired Luvata’s Special Products Division (which employs 1,200 people worldwide and runs 14 plants in three continents). Third, in December 2016, Luvata confirmed the takeover of its Asian copper tubing Division (including one facility in Thailand and two in China) by Zhejiang Hailiang Co. Ltd. (one of the world’s top copper tube fabricators). Finally, just before Christmas, Luvata confirmed the sale of its North American copper tubing operations (including one plant in the US and one in Mexico) to Waybill USA Inc., a company owned by Ron Beal (President of Luvata’s ACR Division) and David Lilley (Founder of the leading Metal Hedge Fund and Trader Red Kite Management Ltd.).
In June 2017, the German Mansfelder Kupfer und Messing GmbH (MKM) took over the sheet and plate production facilities of CSN Carl Schreiber GmbH, a German based company under self-administered insolvency since early 2017. All the production facilities acquired by MKM have been relocated to the company’s major plant in Hettstedt.
Among the minor companies, the major changes occurred in 2017 implied: the closure of Ilnor, a rolling plant based close to Venice, by EGM Group SpA and the integration of all flat product activities at the Group’s major plant in Brescia, the announcement of the installation of a second tinning line and the expansion of the flat product BU at the German Gebr. Kemper GmbH + Co. KG and the acquisition by the French Group Lebronze alloys of Bolton Metals (former Bolton Aerospace) in the UK (small company supplying special brass and bronze extruded and forged products). During 2016, Lebronze alloys also purchased CLAL (small French supplier focused on copper nickel alloys) and its subsidiaries.
Finally, it is interesting reminding the gradual recovery of production at TG Griset, the French rolling company that went bankrupt in 2015 and was acquired by the Chinese Tongling Nonferrous Metals Group Co. Ltd. in April 2016.
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