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Supporting Industry and People’s Livelihoods Through Global Investment in the Aluminum Business

U.S.A. / Malaysia

A resource to support a recycling-oriented society

One of the leading non-ferrous materials, aluminum is second only to iron in demand among metallic materials. A high-strength and rust-resistant material that is easy to process and that offers high thermal conductivity, aluminum has a broad range of uses in various aspects of people's daily lives.

In recent years, aluminum has garnered particular attention for its light weight and its ease of recycling. Aluminum has a specific gravity about one-third that of iron, and the energy required for recycling aluminum is about 2% that used for electrolytic smelting. For example, increasing the ratio of aluminum used in automobile manufacturing would lighten vehicle chassis and improve fuel efficiency. Aluminum previously used can also be repeatedly recycled, another reason aluminum is called a resource that will underpin the recycling-oriented society of the future.

Sumitomo Corporation's aluminum-related business got its start in the 1970s. Until a decade or so ago, trading business in aluminum primarily consisted of importing aluminum metal for use in Japan and then exporting the aluminum semi-products processed by Japanese manufacturers. More recently, this traditional trading business has been augmented by global investment in businesses that produce aluminum.

Press Metal aluminum ingots; about 100 containers per day are shipped from the factory to the port.

Southeast Asia’s largest aluminum refining business

The process of turning aluminum into products begins with the mining of bauxite, an aluminum ore, which is refined into the intermediate material alumina, smelted into aluminum metal, and then rolled to aluminum sheets; these are then used in parts, cans, and other end products. Sumitomo Corporation's investments have focused primarily on smelting and rolling, businesses respectively in the upstream and midstream of the aluminum value chain.

The smelting business has grown to a large scale in Malaysia. Via a joint venture with Press Metal, the country's largest aluminum producer, a total of three lines are now in operation at two aluminum smelters. Constructed on an expansive site five times the space occupied by Tokyo Dome, the Bintulu Plant produces a yearly total of 640,000 tons of aluminum metal. In conjunction with the Mukah Plant, a total of 760,000 tons are produced annually, constituting the largest production capacity in all of Southeast Asia.

As Asia continues to enjoy economic growth, demand for aluminum is expected to grow significantly. While improving quality and productivity, Sumitomo Corporation and Press Metal hope to boost production volume to one million tons.

A Press Metal production line; aluminum is molded into ingots and then shipped to locations around the world.

Bringing one of the US’ leading aluminum rolling manufacturers into the Group

At the heart of Sumitomo Corporation's midstream rolling business is Tri-Arrows Aluminum ("TAA"; formerly ARCO Aluminum), jointly acquired in 2011 by Sumitomo Corporation, the Japanese aluminum rolling manufacturer UACJ Corporation (established through the business integration of Sumitomo Light Metal Industries, and Furukawa-Sky Aluminum Corporation) and the ITOCHU Group. Headquartered in the American state of Kentucky, TAA is one of the US' leading aluminum rolling manufacturers specializing in the production of aluminum coils for beverage cans, and it holds about 30% of the shares of Logan Aluminum, the world's most competitive aluminum rolling mill. It is said that one of every two beverage cans sold in the US uses material from Logan Aluminum.

Demand for aluminum can material in the North American market is extremely stable, allowing TAA to establish a solid customer base. Constellium-UACJ ABS, a joint venture company established in 2016 with Europe's major aluminum rolling company Constellium via TAA, manufactures automotive aluminum panel materials, and TAA supplies the base material. With the needs to make vehicles lighter for improving fuel efficiency, this joint venture entered the automotive sector in anticipation of rapidly expanding demand and has been opening up new sales channels.

Logan's plant, partially owned by TAA, manufactures about 50% of the aluminum coil for beverage cans sold in the US

Supporting industry and people’s livelihoods into the future

Technological innovations such as automated driving and electric vehicles are helping activate new industrial sectors, and accelerating urbanization worldwide has led to greater construction of high-rise buildings. The demand for aluminum, a strong but light material supporting new industries and urban development, appears quite likely to continue rising.

Sumitomo Corporation is pursuing the aluminum business globally in order to ensure reliable supplies of a material that will support industry and people's livelihoods into the future.

Roll processed by rolling slab under pressure and stretching it into a sheet more than 400 meters long

January 2018

Keyword

  • Metal Products Business
  • The Americas
  • East Asia
  • Metal Products

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