The RFP stipulates the banks have until 6 January to reply, and bankers are expecting a beauty parade to be staged by the end of January.

‘This could be a very complex brief,’ says an interested banker. ‘There are issues relating to the potential ownership structure that could lead to two different finance packages, for example. In addition, it is a greenfield project which negates much of the experience gained by those involved in the recent Alba [ Aluminium Bahrain] and Dubal [ Dubai Aluminium] expansions.’

The proposed project is expected to have a split shareholder structure with Oman Oil Company (OOC), Canada’s Alcanand Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority (ADWEA) taking stakes in the 500,000-tonne-a-year aluminium smelter, while only OOC and ADWEA are shareholders in the project’s power plant.

‘Assuming power is sold to the smelter at the sort of prices that make the smelter competitive, there is not much room for profitability in the power plant unless the aim is to oversize it and sell excess capacity into the Omani grid,’ says a banker. ‘This is what is being closely looked at.’

A detailed feasibility study, taking in both marketing and technical issues, was launched in December and is due to be completed by mid-2003 (MEED 6:12:02).

‘This is a project that has languished in the past, but now there is genuine momentum,’ says another banker interested in the mandate. ‘Alcan seem very committed.’