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GFG to expand global auto footprint with French bid
British-owned global industrial group, the GFG Alliance, has made a formal bid to save nearly 400 jobs in France with a plan to rescue and revive the only French manufacturer of aluminium wheels, AR Industries.
The 12,500-worker family-owned metals, energy and engineering group, headed by industrialist, Sanjeev Gupta, has submitted an official bid to the court administrators for AR Industries (ARI) at Châteauroux in the Centre-Val de Loire region.
GFG, which has a worldwide turnover of over US$12billion, has put forward a comprehensive three-year plan for the recovery of the struggling ARI business including investment in equipment, safety and quality improvements and enlargement of its customer base. This plan is based on GFG’s track record for in industrial turnarounds.
The offer was made by GFG Alliance member, the Liberty Group, which is also currently purchasing Aluminium Dunkerque, Europe’s largest aluminium smelter from Rio Tinto as part of a drive to establish France as a major operating hub for the group. The Dunkerque installation is already a major supplier of raw materials to ARI.
Liberty has a successful history in turning around troubled business. Linking a French metals business to a downstream auto manufacturing operation mirror’s Liberty’s successful track record in acquiring and restoring the fortunes of metals and vehicle component enterprises in the UK.
In doing so Liberty has won the confidence of major vehicle manufacturers such as Nissan, Jaguar Land Rover and Ford and secured long-term contracts that have saved more than 2,500 skilled jobs in the UK auto sector and thousands more in the steel and aluminium sectors.
The acquisition of ARI, which produces wheels for Renault/Nissan and PSA, would work in parallel with Liberty’s construction of a two-million wheels per annum wheels factory next to its aluminium smelter in Fort William, Scotland. Liberty aims to supply UK vehicle makers with up to 25% of total domestic demand from the Scottish plant.
In keeping with its normal practices following the acquisition of industrial assets across the world, Liberty aims to protect jobs at ARI and initiate a growth plan for the site. If the bid is successful, the acquisition would be a major step forward for the GFG Alliance strategy to establish France as a key hub within its worldwide industrial network.
The expansion of the Group’s stake in the international automotive sector follows the strong growth of its UK automotive business and its successful bid earlier this month for the 6,000-worker Indian-based manufacturer Amtek Auto, which supplies gearbox and powertrain components to vehicle makers worldwide.
GFG executive chairman Sanjeev Gupta said: “France is a hugely-important location for us and these investments will enable us to take our visionary and robust GREENSTEEL and GREENALUMINIUM sustainable production strategy into one of the world’s most important industrial economies. ARI fits perfectly into our plans for the creation of an integrated value-added business that makes both upstream and downstream operations competitive, sustainable and above all, protects skilled jobs.”
“The European and global car market has grown by over 50% in the past decade and is set to grow further in the years ahead with aluminium playing an increasingly prominent role in that market. The acquisition of ARI, following our purchase of Aluminium Dunkerque, will be an exciting, strategically important and very logical step for our fast-growing business.”
The wheels business at Chateauroux would be led by Philippe Baudon, who has around 30 years senior management experience within the metals and automotive sectors and a track record for turning struggling enterprises back to profitability. Philippe recently joined Liberty Engineering to lead the investment into downstream added-value production in France.
He said: “ARI represents a significant challenge, but I know that, with the skills and commitment of the workforce and the support of customers plus the track record that GFG and Liberty have shown in this area, we can make this business achieve its true potential. We have already engaged with customers and are confident that our project will gain their support for the requisite volume increases and pricing strategy.”
The court’s decision on Liberty’s bid for ARI is expected, after hearings, in the next month.
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