GFG Alliance has inaugurated Europe’s largest smelter, Liberty Aluminium Dunkerque, voicing its intention to expand into France’s industrial supply chain.
GFG aims to make the 570-worker plant the hub of a manufacturing supply chain providing materials and components for French industry, particularly the automotive sector. The site currently produces 285,000 tonnes of primary aluminium a year.
GFG bought the smelter for around US$500m from Rio Tinto in December last year.
GFG also announced Liberty Wheels France, already a major customer of the Dunkerque smelter, has won its first major contract since the London-headquartered Alliance took over the plant in May last year.
From June, Liberty Wheels France will supply specialist French micro-car manufacturer, Ligier with up to around 40% of its annual requirement for alloy wheels. It is the first contract won since the Alliance acquired the facility, which is the only aluminium wheel manufacturer in France.
The group has since implemented a turnaround plan to improve the plant’s efficiency and productivity.
“Our aim is to make this site and the highly skilled women and men who work there, the cornerstone of our integrated industrial business in France,” said GFG chairman and CEO, Sanjeev Gupta.
“We will work with local management and staff to develop new products which create added-value to the aluminium produced there, both sustaining and creating high-value jobs.”
“Together Liberty Aluminium Dunkerque and Liberty Wheels France symbolise our integrated supply chain and business model in action. What we now have is a further French car manufacturer being supplied with wheels ‘made in France’ made out of aluminium from our smelter also ‘made in France.'”
For his part, Liberty Engineering Mainland Europe COO, Philippe Baudon added: “Winning the contract to supply Ligier is a significant step for our Chateauroux site and for GFG in France. Since taking over the site last year, management and staff have all worked tirelessly to turn the site around – to implement the operational and cultural changes needed to make us more competitive and attract new customers.
“This hard work is starting to pay off – we know we faced stiff competition from both Asia and eastern Europe for this deal and we know that our adaptability, technical expertise, competitiveness and proximity to Ligier’s own operations were all factors in this success.
“Work is already underway to start delivering Ligier’s first batch of French-made wheels in June.”