ALDEL - Damco Aluminium Delfzijl Coöperatie U.A.

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An American investor revitalized the ailing aluminum smelter Aldel in the province Groningen. The new plant is all about recycling, less CO2 emissions, green energy and support for the electricity grid.

It seemed like an abandoned war zone here, says Karel Oldenburger. The operational manager has been working at the aluminum smelter in Groningen for ten years and has experienced the changes from close by. The factory went bankrupt two years ago, for the second time in five years. The production stopped. The factory was abandoned. It was totally silent, a sad sight. How different is the sight two years later.

80% of the capacity of DAMCO Aluminum Delfzijl Cooperatie, or Aldel for short, is now in operation again. The 304 melting furnaces are located in two halls, both almost a kilometer long. Long rows, sunk into the ground and closed with crooked covers. A red glow is visible through the cracks: Here alumina from, among others, Suriname is processed into aluminum.

A team drives a cart, a tap truck along the different hatches and sucks up liquid aluminum with a cast-iron pipe. This is processed in the casthouse. New alumina is added to the melting process via dosing tubes. Psst, psst it sounds all the time. Every pot has its own supply.

A breeze can be felt in the middle of the hall, but the temperature rises considerably between the pots. The smelter running again is indescribably wonderful, says Oldenburger. After all, Aldel had turbulent times. But after a double bankruptcy, investment company York Capital Management Global Advisors bought the company in October 2017 for 20 million euros. The new owner is investing about 100 million dollars, equivalent to 87 million euros, an Aldel spokesperson said in January. But now the smelter can no longer share investment amounts.

These investments cannot be taken for granted. The aluminum market is struggling with overproduction and large stocks. Large aluminum producers come from China, the Middle East and Russia. To be able to compete in the West, the costs, especially for electricity, which is used a lot, must remain low. But York will focus until 2020 on cleaning up the factory. The investor expects the market will need locally and sustainably produced aluminum, says Aldel director Chris McNamee (40) at the adjacent head office. The top man in his jacket and shirt, in the airconditioned meeting room, is a stark contrast to his colleagues in the adjacent smelter. The Australian leads the smelter since a year. For that reason he moved from London to Groningen and drives daily to Farmsum, southeast of Delfzijl. McNamee comes from the investment company York and was previously on the supervisory board of Aldel. York, with headquarters in New York and offices in Hong Kong and London, has assets under management of around $ 20 billion. Among other things, the investor has an interest in the chipmaker from Eindhoven NXP and does not invest without an attractive return.

York would initially not interfere with the operational management of Aldel, but announced last year the departure of former director Karsten Pronk. When he took office, McNamee only says that this was “the best for the investment”.

Source: Het financieele dagblad October 8th, 2019