Aluminium’s power plan

Aluminium de Grece plans to invest about 150 million euros in the joint production of thermal and electric energy in a 200-250 MW station by 2006, management told the firm’s annual general meeting yesterday. The plant, which comprises three autonomous units to be built at the company’s installations in Agios Nikolaos Viotias, will be powered by natural gas and is designed to meet the company’s entire thermal energy requirements in steam and about 70 percent of electric energy needs, after the expiry of the current contract with the Public Power Corporation on March 31, 2006. The company is currently considering its options in the procurement of gas turbines and plans to negotiate a long-term supply agreement for natural gas, based on proposals by the Public Gas Corporation and the Energy Regulatory Authority. An agreement is hoped to be signed by the end of 2002, after the finalization of rates for the transportation of natural gas. Chairman of the Board of Directors Iason Stratos said the project is planned to ensure the company’s viability for at least 20 years. Aluminium de Grece has repeatedly come under criticism in the past for paying very low electricity rates. It was the country’s sixth largest industry in terms of sales in 2000 (144.5 billion drachmas, or 424 million euros). It employs about 4,000 people and is a major exporter, with currency earnings of about 250 million euros annually. The company reported pretax profits of 88.7 million euros last year, against 93.8 million euros in 2000. The fall is attributed to lower international prices last year. Shareholders yesterday approved the distribution of a dividend of 2.46 euros per share for 2001, the largest announced to date by a firm listed on the Athens bourse. Social security deficits are historically a massive burden for Turkey’s cash-strapped treasury, which was often forced to finance that expenditure through expensive local borrowing.