More than 30 bids were received from consortia and individual banks for all or part of the $1,550 million financing for the fifth potline project. The offers included bids involving Islamic finance and export credit support. ‘Yesterday, we received the financial bids and we are pleased with what has been submitted,’ Alba’s general manager for finance, Ahmed S Alnoaimi, told the MEED Project Finance conference in Bahrain on 16 October.

Banks were invited to bid for all or part of the financing using loans from international and regional banks, metal-related credits, Islamic finance and local bond offerings. ‘We have received offers from each of these categories,’ John Hehir, director of Taylor-DeJongh, told the conference. Taylor-Dejongh was appointed financial adviser for the line 5 project at the start of 2001.

In response to a question about competition from smelters planned by Oman and Qatar, Alnoaimi said that world aluminium demand was rising by 2.5 per cent a year and this means capacity needs to grow by 600,000 tonnes annually. ‘We are encouraging the Gulf to invest [in aluminium], particularly in brownfield sites in Bahrain and in Dubai,’ he said.

Alnoaimi said Alba is considering the possibility of setting up a joint venture with raw material supplier Alcoaof Canada in order to develop its sixth potline. Gas supplies will be an issue when line 6 starts operating. ‘For line 5, the Bahrain gas reserve is available,’ he said. ‘For line 6, we have to think about importing gas.’

‘There is some fine-tuning as to whether Alba will go alone or go with Alcoa,’ Alnoaimi continued. ‘We are considering the possibility of an alliance with Alcoa. If it goes ahead it will be a 50:50 joint venture.’

In an interview after his speech, Alnoaimi said that the possible joint venture with Alcoa would also encompass the $1,700 million fifth potline, for which work begins in early 2003. The sixth potline is planned to be identical to the fifth line, which is to be built using technology licensed by France’s Pechiney. Bechtel of the US has the engineering, procurement, construction and management contract (EPCM) for the fifth line.