“The market of aluminum sheets is improving”
Head of Iran Aluminium Industries Syndicate:

“The market of aluminum sheets is improving”

The demand for aluminum sheets (by the not-so-advanced consumers) is met owing to conventional domestic producers; only certain types are imported. We discussed this with our guest for this interview, Hooshang Goodarzi, head of Iran Aluminium Industries Syndicate.

How do you evaluate the market of aluminum sheets? How has it changed over the years?

More broadly, when it comes to aluminum sheets or slabs, foil is probably also included. Imports of aluminum sheets (excluding foils) are still small; domestic producers help meet demands. Foil used to be imported in larger volumes, but thanks to import restrictions, consumers have turned to domestic producers; the market is now looking up relatively.

What are some drivers of the aluminum sheet market?

Most such drivers are about restricting imports. With the exception of sheets for the production of cans, all types of sheets can be produced domestically. But because some producers were entitled to Nima rates, they preferred to import; importing was cheaper than buying domestic products. Now that the dollar rate has gone up and imports are restricted, producers find it more economical to buy domestic products.

Why have imports of aluminum sheets declined?

Domestic producers have managed to improve their products over the recent years in order to meet downstream demand. Producers of radiators, food and drug products used to have large imports, mostly due to the price difference between domestic and imported products or because the product was not produced domestically. But currently, with the exception of coils for can production, all types of sheet are available by domestic producers.

Why did exports to Iraq decline?

Foreign exchange policies over the past year are mostly to blame. Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are major export destinations. Without a consistent banking system, Iraq bought from us on a rial basis; even if they pay in dollars, it’s in the free market rate, not the official banking exchange rate. All Iraqi buyers have an Iranian correspondent who gives them information about producers. Some Iranian producers or Iraqi importers prefer to exchange dollars into rials.

What is the most common technology for the production of aluminum sheets in Iran? Where does the country stand globally in this regard?

In some parts of the industry, production technology is acceptable, such as rolled products for foils. As for the production of sheets, some factories have either been developed or are being developed; they can meet domestic demand. But the current technology is not sufficient for products exportable to European or industrialized countries. Producers can only have a limited range of widths. Moreover, many alloys required in industrialized markets cannot be produced in Iran. For instance, Iran has no part in the aviation industry, one of the largest consumers of aluminum sheets. Thus, not producing series 2xxx and 7xxx sheets is not a big deal for the domestic market. Production of series 5xxx (used in marine industries) is sufficient. Given domestic demand and consumption, no significant technological gap is felt.

How much scrap can be used in the production of sheets?

This largely depends on the type of sheet and application. The type of scrap does not matter, but the alloy does. To get the desired alloy, the right scrap is mixed with primary aluminum. As much as 30-35% scrap can be used, depending on the application; other elements such as iron, silicon, manganese, magnesium, etc. must also be taken care of.

What are the largest consumers of aluminum sheets in Iran?

Construction (doors and windows) and home appliances constitute the largest consumption. Other applications include aluminum tubes, military applications, HVACR, radiators, automotive, bituminous waterproofing, as well as food and drug packaging.

Can sheet producers buy primary aluminum on the IME or do they buy on the free market?

They mostly buy from the IME, but they used to buy from the free market as well. Nonetheless, buying aluminum on the free market is inevitable. Producers’ working capital has shrunk as prices go up. Early in 1397, aluminum was 10,000 tomans per kilogram, but it went up to 24,000 tomans by the end of the year. This means that the companies’ purchasing power has declined. Upstream producers are also dealing with the same issue. Given the high interest rates, producers can’t easily get loans; they might buy primary aluminum on credit. It should be noted that the IME only accepts cash payments.

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