Aluminium Market Dynamics in China

Contributed by: Anonymous
July 26, 2021

The aluminum industry, not just in Asia-Pacific, but in the entire world, is dominated by China. The second largest economy in the world is also the most important industry in the world, playing a big role in influencing the global price and extent of competition among leading players. China alone commands more than 50% market share from both production as well as consumption of aluminium, in the world.

DEMAND SUPPLY SCENARIO

Demand is being driven by manufacturing of cars and the growth of the construction industry. Though the economy is slowing, growth remains faster than most developed countries have achieved, keeping demand for aluminum up for the time being at least. In 2024, the Chinese aluminum industry is forecast to have a volume of 41,256.9 thousand metric ton, an increase of 15.6% since 2019.

The government has since 2017 been enforcing a strict old-for-new policy in the aluminium sector. New smelters have only been permitted when matching older capacity is closed. New capacity has indeed been activated, some 500,000 tonnes of it, according to Wan Ling, aluminium analyst at the CRU research house. But the impact is being offset by mandated closures of operating lines in Inner Mongolia, one of several provinces to fail Beijing's energy efficiency targets. Consultancy AZ China estimates 280,000 tonnes of annual aluminium capacity across seven smelters has been shut due to the energy curbs.

COMPETITIVE LANDSCAPE – KEY PLAYERS

• China Hongqiao Group Ltd (China Hongqiao) is an investment holding company. It carries out the manufacture, sale and distribution of aluminum products. The company, through its subsidiaries, also carries out the trading of bauxite, production and sale of electricity and,research and development of bauxite. Its portfolio of products includes molten aluminum alloys, aluminum alloy ingots, aluminum alloy casting-rolling products, aluminum busbars and aluminum alloy processing products. It primarily offers processed raw material for production of car wheels, industrial, civil construction, and thermal conductivity materials. China Hongqiao has sales offices in Liaoning, Beijing, Hebel, Shandong, Jiangsu, Anhui, Zhejiang, and Guangdong. The group operates in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia and the British Virgin Islands. China Hongqiao is headquartered in Binzhou, China.

• Aluminum Corporation of China Ltd (CHALCO) is an integrated aluminum producer with operations in bauxite and coal mining, alumina refining and primary aluminum smelting. It also produces ancillary products and services derived from its aluminum operations. The company is principally involved in the exploration and mining of bauxite, and the production and sales of alumina, primary aluminum and aluminum alloy products. It offers alumina hydrate, alumina-based industrial chemical products, coal products, gallium, raw and ancillary materials, carbon products and other non-ferrous metal products. The company also operates in the coal mining and power generation. Its power generations assets include conventional coal-fire power generation and renewable energy generation such as wind power and photovoltaic power. Chalco is headquartered in Beijing, China. It operates 21 production plants.

• Shandong Nanshan Aluminium Co Ltd (Nanshan Aluminium) is a manufacturer and distributor of aluminum products. The company provides products such as aluminum profiles, electrolytic aluminum, aluminum materials, aluminum foil, aluminum oxide products, aluminum sections, cold-rolled products, and others. It also offers industrial aluminum sheets and aluminum strips, and others. Nanshan Aluminium provides services such as production and generation of electric power, steam, natural gas, and others. The company caters textile, finance, garment, education, tourism, real estate, aviation, civilian industries, and others. It has its operations in Longkou, Qingdao, Yantai and Hainan, China. Nanshan Aluminium is headquartered in Longkou, Shandong, China.

Apart from these 3, there are a lot of other companies in China who are not just leading companies in China, but also are in top companies in the world. To name a few – Xinfa, East Group Ltd, SPIC etc.

CHINA'S GREEN AMBITIONS

Xi Jinping's pledged in October last year that China would reach peak carbon emissions before 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2060, creating a big problem for a sector that in 2018 was 90% reliant on coal power to energize its potlines. The tension between the requirements of the aluminium market and the constraints of China’s carbon ambitions are already surfacing.

China's two biggest aluminium producers last week issued a joint call for the sector to reduce emissions, conserve energy and produce low-carbon metal as part of the national plan to achieve carbon neutrality.

State champion Aluminum Corp of China and top private sector producer China Hongqiao Group might seem unlikely bedfellows, but both have large amounts of capacity powered by hydro in Yunnan province. Both are speaking from a position of "green" strength.

The real bombshell is a recommendation that production and capacity of both primary aluminium and raw material alumina should peak in the Five-Year Plan period running from 2021-25. No targets were mentioned, but this unusual public-private call to arms suggests the political landscape of China's aluminium sector is shifting.

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