LMEWEEK-Germany's Wieland eyes more takeovers after big U.S. expansion

Germany’s Wieland Group, one of the world's largest producers of semi-finished copper products, may consider further takeovers after spending around $1 billion to expand in the United States this year, CEO Erwin Mayr said.

By Michael Hogan

HAMBURG, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Germany’s Wieland Group, one of the world's largest producers of semi-finished copper products, may consider further takeovers after spending around $1 billion to expand in the United States this year, CEO Erwin Mayr said.

Wieland in July completed the takeover of U.S. copper products producer Global Brass and Copper Holdings for about $963 million, continuing a programme of expansion Mayr took over when he became CEO in 2017.

European Union competition authorities had in February stopped Wieland’s plan to purchase the flat rolled copper business of Germany’s Aurubis NAFG.DE.

"We are systematically seeking attractive organic growth opportunities and acquisitions," Mayr told Reuters in an interview for LME Week, an industry event held in London.

"We continue to keep a permanent watch for opportunities for suitable acquisitions in both Europe, North America and Asia. This means suitable acquisitions are possible in future."

Wieland produced and sold about 520,000 tonnes of copper products in its 2018/19 financial year to end-September, down about 10% on the previous year because of the slack economic environment.

"In the new year which started on Oct. 1 we expect sales of about 800,000 tonnes," he said. "This rise reflects the integration of Global Brass and Copper plus a light increase in customer demand in 2020 against 2019," Mayr said.

"Although the Aurubis takeover in Europe was stopped we were able to complete the Global Brass and Copper takeover very quickly which at a stroke put us in a leading position in the U.S. market, so we are very satisfied."

Global Brass and Copper's main attraction had been its wide product range spanning from copper alloy strip and sheet, rod, foil, wire, tube to electronics, coins, defence and electric products and fabricated components with customers including the automobile and transport sector.

"The wide range of product users coupled with the additional management capacity is the great attraction to us," he said. Wieland took over U.S. distributor Diversified Metals in 2018, expanding its distribution and service network in North America.

"We are positioned for continued growth in North America on the basis of large production and management capacity which will be similar to our strong position in Europe," he said.

"We are screening the market continuously for acquisition opportunities and a step into Asia will come at the right point in time. We aim to have the same large presence in Asia which we have in Europe and America."

He added that overcapacity in the copper products market made organic growth more difficult though this might change.

In 2020, copper product demand is expected to be about the same as 2019, which was below the 2017 and 2018 record years.

(Reporting by Michael Hogan, editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

((michael.j.hogan@thomsonreuters.com; +49 172 671 36 54; Reuters Messaging: michael.hogan.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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