Letter from the Executive Board
Dear shareholders and friends of the company,
2020/21 was the most financially successful fiscal year in our history. An operating result of € 353 million and the processing of more than 1 million t of recycling materials for the first time impressively highlight what Aurubis is capable of achieving today. A reason to be proud. However, this is just an interim result for us.
The past fiscal year was a time for reorientation. We updated and honed our corporate strategy, defined new and ambitious sustainability targets within it, and outlined bold growth projects for this decade. Within the industry, Aurubis is a leader in a number of areas that fall under economic, ecological, and social aspects. This is the solid foundation on which Aurubis will continue developing and growing.
Metals for Progress: Driving Sustainable Growth. This is the title of our strategy, in which we provide clear answers to how we’re shaping the future of multimetal production. We want to not only continue expanding our good market position, but also help in shaping the shift toward carbon-neutral metal fabrication. We maintain our objective of being the world’s most efficient and sustainable smelter network.
One cornerstone of our growth is the international recycling business. We want to be present locally in attractive growth markets. As the first step, we’re planning the construction of a new recycling plant in Augusta, in the US state of Georgia. The project, comprising an investment volume of about € 300 million, is expected to process around 90,000 t of complex recycling materials after its completion in 2024, generating an operating contribution to earnings (EBITDA) of approximately € 80 million beginning in fiscal year 2025/26. At the same time, we’ll create over 100 new, highly qualified jobs in the region.
The US recycling market and Aurubis are an ideal fit. Our expertise in the environmentally sound processing of complex recycling materials is met with a local supply that’s growing by 5 % annually. The North American market for recycling multimetals containing copper now encompasses roughly 6 million t of materials that have mainly been exported to Asia or landfilled up to now. In the US, too, the topic of recycling is taking on momentum. A growing awareness among American consumers for sustainable resource use, coupled with increasing regulations, is causing recycling rates to rise. Aurubis will be the first company ever to establish extensive processing capacities for complex recycling materials in the US market.
“Aurubis will be the first company ever to establish extensive processing capacities for complex recycling materials in the US market.”— Roland Harings, CEO
Our new US recycling plant is a gain in every respect. For the environment and society because, first, we contribute to reducing the global carbon footprint thanks to short logistics routes; second, we keep valuable natural resources in the material cycle while maintaining the highest environmental standards; and third, we create local jobs. For our customers and society because we are developing multimetal recycling on site as a key material recipient, creating added value for them as a result. And for Aurubis because we’re positioning ourselves at the right time, with purpose, in an attractive growth market with competitive conditions.
We announced another growth project in July: ASPA, which stands for Advanced Sludge Processing by Aurubis. With an investment of € 27 million in a state-of-the-art hydrometallurgical facility at the Beerse site, we will be able to better process precious metal-rich anode sludge in the future. This accumulates in the copper tankhouse as a valuable intermediate product and contains gold, silver, and tin, to name a few examples. When the project is concluded, we will recover more of the metals contained in the anode sludge faster and more efficiently. This helps us strengthen the circular economy in Europe especially. ASPA is an impressive example of how the successful integration of the former Metallo Group into the smelter network creates crucial synergies. Synergies that we will continue to identify and leverage in the future.
“Our smelter in Hamburg was already one of the cleanest in the industry. With the new facility, we’re setting new international standards.”— Dr. Heiko Arnold, COO
During the past fiscal year, we demonstrated how an innovative energy source can be used in the metal industry. We have successfully carried out tests with hydrogen in place of natural gas in our anode furnace at the Hamburg plant since May 2021. For us, the use of this energy source therefore isn’t a laboratory vision anymore, but is already being tested on an industrial scale. By consistently using hydrogen, Aurubis could reduce its CO2 emissions from the Hamburg anode furnace alone by about 6,200 t per year. This reduction could be multiplied many times over throughout the Group. However, the truth is that hydrogen isn’t cost-efficient yet. The costs are many times higher than the costs to source natural gas. We’ve demonstrated that the innovations for carbon-neutral metal production exist. Now it’s up to policymakers to create the right overall conditions.
A flagship project for environmental protection was commissioned in primary copper production at the Hamburg site in October 2021. Over the last two years, we have invested about € 85 million in an impressive exhaust system with innovative, ultra-fine filters. It leads to another significant reduction in diffuse dust emissions and puts us in a position to remain well below target and limit values. Our smelter in Hamburg was already one of the cleanest in the industry. With the new facility, we’re setting new international standards in environmentally friendly primary copper production.
Whether it’s the validation of our targets by the Science Based Targets initiative as one of the first companies in our industry, the certification of our Bulgarian site pursuant to the standards of The Copper Mark, or the construction of the largest solar plant for internal use in Bulgaria, our variety of sustainability measures are being noticed. We’re pleased that Aurubis was honored with Platinum status from the renowned rating agency EcoVadis in 2021. We therefore belong to the best one percent of our sector worldwide when it comes to sustainability. A team success and a calling card. We will use this more confidently in our product marketing in the future with our new product label Tomorrow Metals. With Aurubis products, we always ensure the best sustainability standards in the industry for our customers. It’s a promise that we don’t make only to our customers.
“From a financial perspective, 2020/21 was an outstanding year. The final result stands at € 353 million, an increase of about 60 % compared to the previous year.”— Rainer Verhoeven, CFO
Some of the news during the fiscal year wasn’t quite as positive. This included the flooding of our Stolberg site following severe weather. What had been built up over decades was destroyed in hours. The plant was evacuated in time and no employees were injured. We promptly decided that we would rebuild the site and resume delivery to our customers as quickly as possible. Without our employees on site and the strong, immediate, uncomplicated support from the Aurubis Group, however, this wouldn’t have been possible. We would therefore like to express our deepest thanks to all of the colleagues who were involved and acknowledge this extraordinary achievement.
From a financial perspective, 2020/21 was an outstanding year. This hadn’t been expected at the start of the fiscal year, which had continued to be influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain bottlenecks, and rising energy prices. In addition to the very good performance of our plants, additional synergies from the integration of the former Metallo Group, and the consistent implementation of our Performance Improvement Program, we were also supported by a robust market environment. Strong increases in refining charges for copper scrap and other recycling materials positively impacted our earnings in particular. Furthermore, we benefited from a very good metal result with strongly increased metal prices, especially for copper, nickel, and tin. High demand for our products likewise contributed to the positive overall development.
The final result stands at € 353 million, an increase of about 60 % compared to the previous year. The operating return on capital employed rose as well and reached 15.6 %, or 6.3 percentage points higher than in 2019/20. With this result, we significantly exceeded our forecast for the fiscal year. We’re staying ambitious in 2021/22 and want to build on the best year in the company’s history, even in an environment of sharply increasing costs and energy prices. Concretely, we expect to generate an operating EBT of € 320 million to € 380 million for the current fiscal year.
The success of the past fiscal year is based on the performance and dedication of our employees. They accomplished great things in another fiscal year that was impacted by COVID-19. This achievement deserves our utmost appreciation and gratitude.
We’ve zeroed in on further growth, fully in line with our strategy Metals for Progress: Driving Sustainable Growth. Steps such as the successful integration of the former Metallo Group, ASPA, and our recycling plant in the US prove this in impressive fashion. We conduct ourselves with the knowledge that Aurubis produces valuable metals, keeping them in the value cycle and thus conserving raw material supplies. Our production processes are among the most environmentally sound in the world, and we fulfill the highest international standards when it comes to our supplier and customer relationships.
We also have the financial strength to implement our strategic ideas promptly and with a sense of purpose. Our products, our metals, are the foundation for clean, forward-looking technologies and a modern, more environmentally friendly, and ultimately better future for all of us.
Roland Harings Dr. Heiko Arnold Rainer Verhoeven