GCC Metals and Mines Sector: Industrial Revolution or pet projects?


Markaz recently published the executive summary of their GCC  Metals and Mines Sector.The report notes that GCC economies are skewed towards Oil and Gas as most of their revenue stream is derived from oil and gas production, thus the metal industry will not only support the development of respective countries and secure supplies, but will also act as a major diversification move and a future revenue stream. However, that does not come without risks, although power is cheap now the explosive growth in power consumption may curb future capacity growth in the metal industry.

The metals and mining sector in the MENA region was predominantly constricted to countries outside the GCC community, with players such as Iran, Algeria and Egypt producing metals such as Copper, Aluminum and Lead, in both upstream and downstream sectors. Ample deposit and strong local markets spurred the metal industry; at the same time GCC countries were preoccupied with upgrading their Oil and Gas sector. However, in the 1970s Bahrain embarked on diversifying away from its Oil sector as its resources started depleting. Bahrain was the first GCC country to embark on the metal industry through Aluminum Bahrain (ALBA). ALBA started production in 1971 with annual capacity of 120,000 metric tons per year of Aluminum products, current capacity stands at 870,000 metric tons per year. The United Arab Emirates followed in 1979 with Dubai Aluminum Company (Dubal) whose current annual capacity stands at 1 million metric tons of Aluminum.

Table 1: Top Aluminum producers in GCC

Oman, Qatar and recently KSA through Ma’aden have entered the aluminum market as a diversification measure. GCC producers and global consumers are expected to reap benefits from the low energy costs to feed the plants coupled with low labor costs. Due to the increasing demand for basic materials in the east, GCC countries are well positioned to satisfy the need

Highly subsidized energy costs give a competitive advantage to GCC metal manufacturing plants. Aluminum and steel projects have been deployed in the region due to cheap gas and to secure local homegrown demand for metals. Based on the American steel association and Metal Miners, on average 20% of the total cost of producing steel is accounted by power costs and for aluminum, the cost jumps to 30% of the total. That been said, in the GCC, major players are either government owned or quasi-government entities with access to cheap subsidized energy.

GCC countries in general import the raw material needed to produce steel and/or aluminum, such as Bauxite and Iron ore, thus any disturbance in the supply chain could render the industry useless. However, the risk is very low and is usually disqualified, the more moderate risk is the price of raw material in the past iron ore prices were updated every year then changed to every quarter in 2010, and currently pricing has changed to every month which increases the price fluctuation risk.

Nonetheless, increasing power consumption might slow down growth of the metals sector. Saudi Arabia is a case in point, if consumption growth continues on the same level; Saudi Arabia may be a net importer of oil by 2038[1]. Power allocation is more likely to be allocated for domestic consumption rather than industrial activities. It is already evident by looking at the UAE, specifically Abu-Dhabi, which is home to industrial projects such as Emirates Aluminum (EMAL), Emirates Steel industries and Borouge (petrochemical industry) that it is facing pressure because power demand is outpacing supply. Currently, additional power supply is being covered by the state of Qatar via the Dolphin pipeline; however Qatar plans to increase gas consumption for domestic infrastructure projects.

(For information on obtaining Full Report, please contact: [email protected])

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About Markaz

Kuwait Financial Centre K.P.S.C “Markaz”, with total assets under management of over KD903 million (USD 3.2 billion) as of December 31, 2012, was established in 1974 has become one of the leading asset management and investment banking institutions in the Arabian Gulf Region. Markaz was listed on the Kuwait Stock Exchange (KSE) in 1997.