(Adds detail, considering North American expansion, more takeovers)
By Michael Hogan
HAMBURG, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Aurubis AG, Europe’s biggest copper smelter, will boost its expansion into the production of metals other than copper, its new chief executive officer said on Thursday.
“We will undertake over-proportional expansion metals which are not copper,” new CEO Roland Harings said in an advance release of a speech at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting in Hamburg.
“We will look for new options to grow through acquisitions,” Harings said. “The good news: we have the financial means for this. We will deliver successes in this area until 2023, especially in the recycling business.”
Harings, who took over as CEO in July 2019, said the group will use its strength in processing complex ores and recycling materials to expand production of other metals.
He did not name the possible metals involved.
“We are also looking beyond Europe for attractive growth opportunities,” he said. “For example, we can imagine additional investments in North America.”
“The recycling markets there are much less developed than in Europe – so there are attractive possibilities to leverage value with our expertise.”
In June 2019, Aurubis stopped its future Complex Metallurgy project to expand its raw material processing capability because of high costs and its former CEO left.
Core metal demand in Europe is expected to remain firm especially because of moves to increase environmental protection, he said.
“By 2023 Europe will take significant steps forward in its energy transition and in electro mobility,” Harings said. “Extensive infrastructure projects are necessary to achieve the current climate targets alone. This will generate demand for metals.”
In the next three years, Aurubis will increase its focus on metals production and recycling rather than products, he said.
“For this reason, we will sell our flat rolled business,” he said. “Although the first attempt was stopped by the European Commission in 2019: This is still our express objective.”
European Union competition authorities in early 2019 blocked a plan by Aurubis to sell the division to German copper products producer Wieland, arguing the deal could lead to higher prices.
The unit’s main production sites are in Germany, the United States, Netherlands and Finland and it has copper processing centres in Italy, Britain and Slovakia.
The unit generated revenue of about 1.3 billion euros and produced 210,000 tonnes of products in the 2018/19 financial year.
EU competition regulators in November 2019 also opened an investigation into Aurubis’ planned 380 million euro acquisition of Belgian-Spanish metal recycling group Metallo.
“We expect a decision by April at the latest,” Harings said. (Reporting by Michael Hogan; editing by David Evans and Jason Neely)