In Person

Josef Wohrer, chairman and CEO of Austrian major, Salzburger Aluminium, says the US$12mn SAG Sohar, the first downstream plant to start operations in Sohar, is all set to supply bus bars to a slew of aluminium smelters coming up in the region. Excerpts from an interview:

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What is your experience in setting up operations in Sohar?
It was quite challenging considering that we were investing so far away from home and dealing with totally new conditions. Nevertheless, we set up the plant in a record time of 123 days. It is unprecedented in our industry and many were surprised by our speed and even the local authorities found it difficult to match up to our speed.

Since Sohar Aluminium is yet to commence operations, where is SAG Sohar sourcing its metal from?
Currently we are sourcing aluminium from Alba in Bahrain, but that is only temporary until Sohar Aluminium starts operations by the middle of this year.
We have a contract to source 25,000 tonnes per year of liquid aluminium from them. We have a capacity to produce 36,000 tonnes per year of bus bars, billets, ingots, and special alloy blocks.
I've already spoken to Tony Kinsman of Sohar Aluminium to source more if the smelter goes ahead with its expansion plans and provided we get a parallel contract.

Who are your clients?
Bus bars are our speciality and all new smelters need it for their operations. Sohar Aluminium's capacity may be doubled; there are plants coming up in Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. At the pace at which smelters are being built in the Middle East, output of aluminium will increase from about 2mn tonnes to 10mn tonnes in two years and it will become a major production hub. Our products are also targeted at smelters coming up in Malaysia, Indonesia and South Africa.

What are you views on duties imposed by the GCC countries?
Right now there is a three per cent barrier. SAG is in favour of doing away with the duties as it will make our exports more competitive and help us in transferring technology to Oman.

Does the SAG have any expansion programme in place?
Our turnover for 2007 stood at 360mn euros and we want to increase it to 500mn euros by 2011. For this purpose we have chalked out a strong expansion programme. We are negotiating with companies in Mexico and Turkey to set up joint ventures there. Big investments are also planned in Sweden and Netherlands to cover the demands of our key customers like Volvo and Scania. With Russia opening up and many of our customers moving there, we are compelled to follow them.

SAG is known for its innovation. How much does the group spend on R&D?
Our credo is: Innovation is very, very important. Our R&D spend currently stands at five per cent of turnover. We would like to push it up further.
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In Person
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