BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Romania’s Alro, one of Europe’s biggest aluminium smelters, said yesterday it had acquired local alumina plant ALUM Tulcea from the Belize-based Pioche Consultants Limited, in a $9 million deal. Alro, which is Romania’s sole primary aluminium producer, shifted its focus to high value-added metal to be competitive in European Union markets before Romania’s EU accession, planned for 2007. «The transaction size is even bigger than the market value of the company (of Alum),» Alro’s vice president, Marian Nastase, said in a statement. Pioche held a 67.69 percent stake in Alum, which is the Balkan country’s sole producer of calcined alumina – the raw material needed to produce primary aluminium. Alro, which says its output has risen gradually in recent years, said it estimates 260,000 tons of production next year. Over the past three years, Alro invested the equivalent of $145 million to modernize its production facilities and in environment protection. The smelter, in which US-based metals trader Marco owns a majority stake, made a net profit of 15.6 million euros in the first half this year, 35 percent down from the same period in 2004 due to higher world alumina prices. Alro exports traditionally to EU member states Italy, Greece, France, Britain and Hungary. It also sells aluminium to Balkan states, Turkey, the USA, Israel and Saudi Arabia.