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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Saudi Arabia’s Ma’aden to expand internationally, says CEO

The company is in the market to refinance loans for an aluminium refinery, he added

Maaden which mines gold in Saudi Arabia, besides bauxite - the ore from where aluminium is derived - also plans to to expand its growth capabilities in base metals. Fayez Nureldine / AFP
Maaden which mines gold in Saudi Arabia, besides bauxite - the ore from where aluminium is derived - also plans to to expand its growth capabilities in base metals. Fayez Nureldine / AFP

Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Ma’aden), the Arabian Gulf’s largest miner, will look to grow internationally in the phosphate and fertilisers business, its chief executive said.

“We have still unexplored and great opportunities in Saudi Arabia," said Khalid bin Saleh Al Mudaifer in Dubai. "The other is our global presence where we grow outside Saudi Arabia. We have one of the largest phosphate resources in the world now. So we want to make sure we can grow it internationally.”

The company, which mines gold in the kingdom, besides bauxite - the ore from where aluminium is derived - also plans to to expand its growth capabilities in base metals, he added.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top exporter of oil, is also rich in minerals such as phosphate, of which it has some of the world’s highest reserves - estimated at three billion tonnes or more. Phosphate forms an important component in the manufacturing of fertilisers and also finds varied uses in the chemicals industry.

Ma’aden, as part of its overseas expansion, eyes growth in its key consuming markets.

“Wherever is a good mining source, we would like [to be there] and for fertilisers we would like to be in the main regions of consumption, which is the Americas and Asia," said Mr Al Mudaifer.

He declined to comment on whether the company was exploring for uranium in Saudi Arabia, which has significant deposits of the metal, but said Ma’aden was open to “any mining business” as long as it had scope. The kingdom, which has set aside an ambitious target to bring online 16 nuclear reactors by 2030, has looked at sourcing the metal used to develop nuclear fuel domestically.

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Ma’aden, which follows the lead of fellow Saudi conglomerate Sabic - the region’s largest petrochemicals company - said talks were ongoing to “grow together”. He declined to be more specific but cited his firm's $7bn joint venture to produce phosphate with the chemicals giant as grounds for continued discussions on partnerships.

Ma’aden had set the ball rolling for future tie-ups outside the kingdom back in 2009, when it formed a joint venture with US-based aluminium producer Alcoa to mine for bauxite in Saudi Arabia. The joint venture processes bauxite at their 1.8 million tonnes a year alumina refinery, which became commercial in 2014.

The Saudi mining chief played down disruptions to the global aluminium market after the US President Donald Trump's administration imposed sanctions against Russian producer Rusal last month, which caused prices for the base metal to rally to their highest in several years.

“The sanctions are short-term and in the longer term there is a good drive for demand,” said Mr Al Mudaifer.

He added that Ma’aden was in the market to refinance the company’s loans incurred for an aluminium refinery.

“We have very highly leveraged balance sheets and we’re reducing our cash generations. We’re now in the market and we have completed sukuk issuance for phosphate and [its refinancing],” he said.

The company has $1.7bn in cash, he added.