ECONOMY

Viohalco group aims to expand further abroad

The Viohalco group is expanding into the Balkans while also planning an entry into new markets such as Russia and the Middle East with new investment plans. Greece’s biggest metal-processing industry group, including a total of 80 companies, has invested much in the markets of Bulgaria and Romania, which will enter the European Union next year. Viohalco has production facilities in these countries and when they join the bloc these plants will be developed and grow stronger in the domestic markets. Just as the rise in the price of metals increases the valuation of the group’s stocks, investment will focus on the group’s four subsidiaries, ETEM, Elval, Sidenor and Corinth Pipeworks. ETEM is planning a two-year investment program valued at 10 million euros. The completion of its investment in the new Etalbond aluminium panel production line allows ETEM to increase and improve production with an eye on entering the Russian and the Middle East markets. Elval, the group’s biggest company, operates at capacity at its plant at Oinofyta, and last year production reached 192 million tons, just over 2004’s output. This year production is expected to remain the same but efforts are being made to contain costs at all levels. Management sources said this year’s results will be severely affected by the global economic slowdown and particularly the price of primary aluminium, which has recorded historic highs. Sidenor’s new investments, combined with the great rise in the use of Corinth Pipeworks’ production potential, will significantly strengthen sales of final steel products, which by mid-2007 will reach 250,000 tons per month. In 2008, total Sidenor sales will reach 3 million tons, up from about 2 million tons in 2005, while group turnover will grow to 1.5 billion euros from 957 million euros in 2005. Corinth Pipeworks, just out of a three-year loss-making period, is starting on a course toward profit. Its general director, Sarantos Milios, suggested that this year is positive already, as the increase in the price of oil favors the realization of big investments for its extraction and shipping. «All studies agree that the consumption of natural gas in Europe and America will keep rising at high rates for the next five years at least,» said Milios. He added that «given the strategic choice of both the EU and the US for securing alternative suppliers of natural gas, the rapid construction of new carriage pipelines emerges as imperative.»