Aurubis to grow organically rather than through deals, CEO says

Animation of the Aurubis Richmond plant. Credit: Aurubis

Aurubis, Europe’s largest copper producer, plans to eschew large acquisitions and instead build a network of recycling facilities across the globe as part of its focus on organic growth, its CEO said on Wednesday.

The company, which is emerging from a 2023 scandal when its copper was stolen by an organized crime ring, is set to open a US recycling facility by December.

That project is seen as a blueprint for the construction of similar facilities elsewhere because there are no viable takeover options, Roland Harings told Reuters on the sidelines of the World Copper Conference in Santiago.

“We have to grow organically because for our strategy there are no real (M&A) targets,” he said. “We want to grow in recycling.”

The $700 million Augusta, Georgia facility, the company’s first project outside of Europe, will have an initial capacity of 90,000 metric tons per year that will grow to 180,000 metric tons in a second phase.

“What we have done there is the cookie cutter approach,” Harings said of the Georgia facility. “The intention is that this is not a one-off. Recyclable materials are available in many regions.”

Harings mentioned possible growth into Asia or Africa, adding, “nothing decided, but nothing excluded.”

Aurubis in 2020 bought Belgian-Spanish metal recycling group Metallo, which Harings said would be the type of company that would be appealing for a takeover.

“If there would be another two, three Metallos, we would go for them, because this was a very successful acquisition,” he said.

The Hamburg, Germany-based company has steadily raised its capital budget, with plans to spend 990 million euros ($1.05 billion) in 2024, up from 660 million euros last year.

Metal theft

Mishandling of the copper theft, which cost Aurubis more than 185 million euros, also cost Harings his job. His departure this coming September, he said, would not change the company’s growth strategy.

“There is a political responsibility, which I have as a CEO, for the company,” Harings said. “And so I stand up to that.”

Aurubis has taken steps to prevent future copper thefts, including appointing third-party laboratories to conduct tests for “big and valuable cargos,” Harings said. He declined to comment on whether there are ongoing lawsuits against scrap suppliers involved.

“In case something like this would be possible again, the detection is much earlier so that the damage will never be of a same magnitude,” he said.

Aurubis is one of the world’s top copper scrap buyers to source from diverse suppliers, with secondary input taking up to 45% of its copper production.

When asked whether the company’s next executive will be from the recycling industry, Haring declined to comment.

Harings, who joined Aurubis in 2019 after previous roles across the metals industry, said he had no immediate plans for after he leaves the company.

“Recycling and the circular economy is a very, very interesting field,” Harings said. “So I’m looking into different opportunities.”

($1 = 0.9390 euros)

(By Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Bill Berkrot)


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