Alba Group and Techcent form joint venture

Dr. Axel Schweitzer, chairman of the Alba Group, will act as chairman of the joint venture company.

The Alba Group, a leading recycling and environmental services company and raw material provider, has partnered with Chinese company Techcent in an effort to grow its business in that country. The Alba Group, based in Berlin, and an investment fund led by the Deng family, the dominant shareholder of Techcent, signed an agreement to form a joint venture that will become effective 1 January 2017.

The joint venture will consist of selected areas of Alba Group’s Chinese business relating to technology recycling growth areas, such as electronic scrap and automobile recycling. In addition, the partnership will include the services segment that consists of the Dual System Interseroh, which plays a major role in the collection and treatment of packaging waste from the Yellow Bin/Yellow Bag programme in Germany, as well as sorting facilities for light packaging. The agreement also states that Dr. Axel Schweitzer, chairman of the Alba Group, will act as chairman of the joint venture company.

While both parties say they have agreed to treat the details of the agreement as strictly confidential, they did add that Techcent’s share in these two segments of Alba’s business will amount to 60%.

“As announced, we were able to identify a matching co-investor for our China business and our segment services before the end of the year,” Schweitzer says in a news release.

With its two brands—Alba and Interseroh—and 7,500 employees, Alba Group operates within Germany, Europe and Asia. The company had approximately €2.2 billion in turnover in 2015.

Techcent is an environmental company based in Chengdu in Sichuan, China. Founded in 2001, the company focuses on research, development, services and engineering in environmental technologies. In March 2016, Techcent acquired Bilfinger Water Technologies GmbH, a provider of water treatment technologies.

LME nears final step on warehousing reform

The London Metal Exchange (LME) has announced its intention to introduce caps on maximum rates charged by LME-registered warehouses. The announcement follows what the LME calls “a marketwide consultation” and represents the final part of a three-year-long warehouse reform programme “designed to enhance the LME’s warehouse network and to ensure that it fully serves the requirements of the global metals market,” the metals trading and warehousing organisation says.

As the final part of the reforms programme, the LME says it will introduce an initial schedule of maximum rates for warehouse rents and free-on-truck (FOT) charges by calculating the average of the highest published charges for the years 2015-16 and 2016-17 on a per-metal and per-country basis. This schedule of charge caps will be frozen for five years, during which time “real-world” prices are expected to converge closer to the frozen published rates. After that, the maximum prices will be updated annually based on the per-country consumer price index.

The revised policy will take effect following the 90-day notice period required under the LME Warehouse Agreement, which means by 28 December 2016, in time for publication of the 2017-18 charges. The first capped charges will come into effect 1 April 2017.

Umicore to consolidate catalyst operations in Germany

Umicore, a Brussels-based materials technology and recycling company, has announced plans to close its automotive catalyst production facility in Rheinfelden, Germany, and to transfer the business to its newer automotive capacity facility in Bad Säckingen, Germany. The company says it expects the consolation to be completed over a three-year period.

In choosing to shutter the Rheinfelden plant, Umicore notes that the Bad Säckingen site offers specific advantages regarding its ability to accommodate future growth.

While consolidating output in Germany, Umicore announced plans to increase production capacity at its newly commissioned Nowa Ruda plant in Poland. The company says the introduction of new emission regulations in Europe requires a broader range of technologically advanced products, such as gasoline particulate filters, lean NOx (nitrogen oxide) traps, selective catalytic reduction and advanced three-way catalysts. The adapted and expanded production configurations in Germany and Poland will support Umicore in meeting this demand in the optimum way, the company says.

Australian state proposes wide ranging anti-metals theft law

A bill proposed in the Legislative Assembly of the Australian state of New South Wales is targeting the problem of metal theft by strictly regulating and scrutinising the activities of scrap processors. The state of New South Wales includes the cities of Sydney and Newcastle.

The “Scrap Metal Industry Bill 2016,” sponsored by Assembly Members Troy Grant and Duncan Gay, states its objective is to “regulate the scrap metal industry” in seven specific ways with the potential for future regulation also.

Grant is a former police officer affiliated with the National Party of Australia. Gay also is a National Party member.

The regulatory measures the bill calls for include:

  • requiring persons who deal in scrap metal (scrap metal dealers) to register their businesses with the Commissioner of Police;
  • prohibiting scrap metal dealers from paying cash for scrap metal;
  • requiring scrap metal dealers to keep and maintain records of transactions for buying scrap metal, including details of the person selling the scrap;
  • requiring scrap metal dealers to report suspicious transactions to the police;
  • prohibiting scrap metal dealers from accepting a motor vehicle (or any motor vehicle body, engine or chassis) as scrap metal if it does not display its identification details;
  • providing for short-term and long-term closure orders in respect to premises at which a scrap metal business takes place if the business is not registered under the proposed Act or serious criminal offences have been committed on the premises;
  • authorising police officers to enter the premises of a scrap metal business without a warrant to investigate contraventions of the proposed act and to search, take photographs and recordings and seize and copy records; and
  • providing for other regulatory measures in respect to the scrap metal industry.

A scrap processor who operates in the Sydney area says the bill has come about as a response to increases in vehicle theft. “Our industry had no warning [on the proposed law], but there has been a recent increase in new entrants in the industry mainly focusing on cars—namely buying, breaking (pulling out engines and nonferrous parts) and exporting the shells overseas. As these yards have grown, it has come to the attention of the various authorities, particularly with statistics showing an increase in the number of stolen cars. Also there is no requirement to be licensed to operate a scrap yard so the industry was in need of some form of regulation.”

He says eliminating cash will not be a problem with commercial customers but will affect “the street trade.” The processor says, “Electronic funds transfer payment has been an easy and acceptable overnight payment system for medium and large customers, however, it has remained unpopular with the street trade.”

The scrap processor adds, “Some of the larger operators who have invested in ATM and cash dispensing systems may now have redundant equipment” if it doesn’t meet new standards. “Having said that,” he continues, “provided the authorities enforce the rules, then [going cashless] should be a benefit to the established operators.”

In a speech prepared to introduce the bill, Grant downplayed the burdens to scrap collectors. “I make it clear that the proposed legislation will not impact anyone legitimately looking to offload scrap metal,” he stated. “People who enjoy scavenging on council cleanup days with a view to making a few dollars or who find it necessary to move a rusted car chassis—I have one in my backyard—can still do so in the normal way but will no longer be paid in cash and will need to prove their identity. That is not too onerous.”

He later represented the proposed switch away from cash payments as a benefit, remarking, “More and more businesses are relying on [electronic and cheque] payments, so this is not considered onerous. It will also remove the need for scrap metal businesses to keep large volumes of cash on hand, which could also be a security risk for them.”

Additionally, Grant cited laws in the United Kingdom as having served as a model for the proposed New South Wales law, commenting, “We also know that a similar scheme in place in the United Kingdom has already proven to be successful, with the number of metal theft incidents falling significantly in the scheme’s first year of operation.”