It is somewhat surprising that the Hamburg-based copper group Aurubis has once again achieved record results for the 2021/22 fiscal year - in view of economic turmoil, global crises and rising energy prices. Operating earnings before taxes (EBT) rose by 40 percent to EUR 532 million in the 2021/22 financial year compared to the previous year, while consolidated profit increased by 52 percent to EUR 433 million. All of this with a 14.5 percent increase in sales of around 18.5 billion euros, the Aurubis Executive Board reported on Wednesday.
The return on capital employed reached 19 percent in the past fiscal year. In view of this, the Executive Board and Supervisory Board are proposing a dividend per share increased by 20 cents to EUR 1.80. 29.99 percent of the Aurubis shares belong to the Salzgitter steel group, around 66 percent of the shares are in free float.
Aurubis employs around 6,900 people worldwide, around 2,600 of them in Hamburg. When it comes to goals, the company sets the bar high. "We are the most efficient and sustainable steelworks network in the world," said CEO Roland Harings. Emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) are 1,460 kilograms per tonne, while the global average is 3,833 kilograms of carbon dioxide per tonne of copper produced. "Our goal is to be carbon neutral with our metal production well before 2050," said Harings.
In addition to the main product copper, Aurubis also produces around 20 other metals such as gold, silver, nickel, zinc or platinum, depending on the composition of the raw material copper concentrate or the recycling material used. Aurubis wants to use two megatrends to assert and strengthen its position in the environment of the world's leading copper producers: The electrification of the economy and everyday life are driving demand for copper up worldwide, from electric cars and their charging infrastructure to wind farms and long-distance power lines such as SüdLink in Germany: "This is a global trend, we see a long-term growing market here," said Harings.
At the same time, Aurubis wants to further expand its pioneering role in reducing greenhouse gases and establishing a circular economy. A total of one billion euros in investments have currently been approved by the Supervisory Board. Aurubis is currently building a new recycling plant in Richmond, Georgia, which is scheduled to go into operation in the second half of 2024. The construction of a second module for the plant is already in preparation, with which the capacity is to be doubled by 2026 to a total of 180,000 tons of recycling material per year.
A key driver for this is the Inflation Reduction Act and its comprehensive tax incentives, with which the administration of US President Joe Biden wants to promote the energy transition and electromobility in the United States. "The US is a perfect market for us, with a potential of up to six million tons of recycled material per year, to implement our expertise in moving into a circular economy," said Harings.
In Hamburg, Aurubis is building a new recycling plant for 190 million euros, and the "Complex Recycling Hamburg" project is scheduled to go into operation at the end of 2025. 32,000 tons of externally purchased material per year will then also be processed in the Veddel plant. "We will significantly increase the ability to process complex raw materials at the Hamburg site," said Heiko Arnold, the board member responsible for operational business.
In Hamburg, Aurubis is also working in other ways to expand the circular economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to an existing project for the supply of the eastern HafenCity, the group wants to decouple further industrial waste heat as a contribution to the Hamburg district heating network. At the same time, Aurubis is part of the network of public and private companies that are building a network for "green" hydrogen that is generated using renewable energies.
Aurubis processed a total of around 2.4 million tons of copper concentrate in the past fiscal year, around eight percent more than in the previous year. The processing of copper scrap and other recycling materials in Europe was slightly below the previous year's level at slightly more than one million tons.
The Group does not currently see the risk of an insufficient supply of raw and recycling materials, also in view of the diverse geopolitical tensions. "We have a broad base and source our copper concentrates from about 40 mines in different countries," said Harings. China is also not problematic in this regard: The country does not supply any copper concentrates or recycling material, but on the contrary accounts for around 50 percent of global demand for copper. And in China, too, this demand continues to rise sharply.