Boliden AB - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on Boliden AB

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Company Perspectives

Boliden's mission is to produce metals that make modern life work. Boliden meets the needs of the public sector and of industrial and private consumption by manufacturing high-quality base and precious metals through exploration, mining, recycling and smelting.

History of Boliden AB

Boliden AB is one of Europe's leading base metal concerns. The Sweden-based company is Europe's third-largest copper producer and the region's second largest zinc producer. Boliden is also active in other base metals categories, specifically lead, gold and silver. Boliden handles all phases of metals production, from exploration, to mine operation and milling, to smelting, refining and recycling--the company is one of the world's leading metals recyclers. Boliden operates three mines in Sweden and a fourth mine in Ireland. The company's refinery operations include four copper smelters in Sweden and Finland, zinc smelters in Finland, Norway and Sweden, and marketing subsidiaries in Sweden, Finland, and the Netherlands. The 'new' Boliden's takeover of the mining and refining operations of Finland's steel giant Outokumpu occurred in 2003. As part of that transaction, Outokumpu became Boliden's major shareholder, with a 49 percent stake in the company. Outokumpu reduced its stake in Boliden to 16 percent in 2005. Boliden is listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange and is led by President and CEO Jan Johanssen. In 2005, Boliden posted record sales of SEK 20.441 billion.

Gold Rush Beginnings in the Twenties

Sweden's metal shortage during World War I led the government to promote exploration efforts in the country's northern region. One of the groups that took up the challenge was Centralgruppen Emissionsbolag, a holding company set up in 1915 to acquire stakes in new mining companies and developing mines. By 1920, Centralgruppen had established its own team of prospectors and other experts, putting into practice the new geophysical exploration technologies being developed at the time. Centralgruppen suffered several years of losses, but its patience--and that of its backing bank--was rewarded in 1924 when gold was discovered in Fagelmyren.

In order to exploit the mine, the financially troubled Centralgruppen was taken over by its main bank in 1925. The bank then established two mining companies to work the gold field, which by then had become known as Boliden. The two companies, Västerbottens Gruvaktiebolag and Skellefteå Gruvaktiebolag, began constructing their mines that year, with full scale production launched in 1926. At first, all of the region's production was shipped elsewhere for processing, primarily to Germany.

Västerbottens Gruvaktiebolag and Skellefteå Gruvaktiebolag decided to begin their own processing operation. In 1930, the companies inaugurated their first smelter, on the island of Rönnskär. From the start, the company was involved in production of a range of metals, including copper and silver, in addition to gold. In 1931, Västerbottens Gruvaktiebolag and Skellefteå Gruvaktiebolag were merged into a single operation, Boliden. At the same time, the group received permission from the government to increase its production and processing levels, and the Fagelmyren emerged as one of the major sources of European gold.

While the rest of the world slumped into the Great Depression, Boliden itself prospered, and by the mid-1930s employed some 2,500. Sweden's neutrality during World War II also permitted the company to grow strongly. A new metal shortage--this time of lead--prompted the group to expand its operations, with the opening of a lead mine in nearby Laisvall in 1943. Boliden also added new mines and support facilities in the mineral rich regions of Lainejaur, Ravliden, Kristineberg, Adak and Bjukfors. In support of its growing production, the company built its own cableway at the Kristineberg site, which, at 96 kilometers, became the world's longest cableway. By the end of the decade, Boliden had added a new major gold mine, at Akulla. The increased production led the company to expand production at the Rönnskär smelter in 1949.

Diversifying in the Postwar Era

Boliden continued to expand through the 1950s, notably through its 1957 acquisition of Zinkgruvor, which operated a number of mines, including major sites at Garpenberg and Saxberget. The addition of zinc mining operations led the group to build an electrolysis plant in Rönnskär the following year.

Boliden continued expanding its mining operations, particularly with the exploration of the Udden and Nasliden regions during the 1960s. In 1964, Boliden bought a 50 percent stake in Norzink, a zinc smelter in Norway, marking its first international venture. During the decade, Boliden's attention turned to its increasingly diversified operations. These included the production of chemicals, such as sulfuric acid through subsidiary Supra, and the production of superphosphate fertilizers. In support of its chemicals production, the company built a waste fuming plant in Ronsskar in 1962, then added a sulphuric acid production unit at its main smelter site.

During the 1970s, the company acquired Sala Maskinfabrik, a major producer of equipment for the metals industry. Boliden, which worked in partnership with Germany's Preussag during the 1970s, also began developing its own smelting and production technologies. These included its "Kaldo" flash smelting process for lead production, introduced in 1976. The company formed a marketing group, Boliden Contech, in 1981 in order to sell its technologies to third parties.

Boliden's diversification led it into a number of new areas, including the production of chemicals for the pulp and paper industry, the manufacturing of water systems, transport and terminals operations, and strong international trade presence. In the late 1970s, Boliden began a company-wide restructuring effort, designed to emphasize the international component of its varied operations. This led to the creation of Boliden International, which grouped together six of the company's international trading and consulting companies.

During this time, Boliden's metals operations demonstrated strong growth. The company entered metal recycling, eventually becoming one of the world's largest in this sector, through the acquisition of Denmark's Paul Bersoe & Son in 1976. This business was boosted with the 1981 acquisition of Arv Andersson, which also added electronic scrap recycling. The company's mining interests grew in 1980 with the completion of the Aitik mine expansion.

Yet a downturn in the international metals market led Boliden into financial difficulties by mid-decade, and in 1986 the company posted its first-ever loss. By the end of that year, the company had been taken over by Swedish conglomerate Trelleborg. The match was a good one, as Trelleborg itself had its origins in the production of equipment for the metals and mining industries. Under a new president, 32-year-old Kjell Nilsson, Boliden began to streamline its operations back to a core of metals and mining operations. This led Boliden, which had remained largely focused on the Swedish and Scandinavian markets, to begin an international expansion through the late 1980s and into the 1990s.

The company entered the market in Spain in 1987, buying up Apirsa, a zinc mining group near Seville. Boliden entered Saudi Arabia two years later, forming a joint venture with Petromin to exploit the gold deposit at Sukhaybarat in 1989. The company also acquired the Black Angel zinc lead mine in Greenland. At the same time, Boliden added production units for the manufacture of copper and brass products in the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, as well as in Sweden. In 1991, Boliden and parent Trelleborg established a joint-venture to enter the metals and minerals trading market in Eastern Europe. By 1995, the company had begun to exploit a second site in Spain, at Los Frailes.

The New Boliden in the New Century

Trelleborg undertook a major restructuring in the mid-1990s, culminating with its sale of 51 percent of Boliden on the stock market. In a move designed to bring the company closer to the center of the international metals market, Boliden's shares were listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange in 1997. Boliden was then reincorporated as Boliden Limited, with its headquarters moved to Toronto. In 1998, Boliden added its first North American operation, acquiring the Westmin mining company in Canada, including its underground mine at Myra Falls. The Westmin purchase also gave Boliden a presence in the Chile copper mining market. By then, the company had also entered Mexico, through two exploration joint ventures with Silver Eagle Resources in the United States, and Mexico's gold and silver producer, Luismin SA.

Yet Boliden's American adventure proved short-lived as the company slipped into an extended period of financial difficulty. By 1999 the company had begun to restructure its holdings, selling off, among others, its share of the Saudi Arabia gold joint venture, and moving its headquarters back to Sweden. By 2001, the company had also transferred its shares to the Stockholm exchange. The "new" Boliden's restructuring continued through much of the first half of the new decade, and included exits from its Canadian and Chilean mining operations, as well as the sale of its 50 percent share of Norzink. In 2001, the company also shut down its Laisvall lead mine.

Into the middle of the decade, Boliden's new strategy called for a tighter focus on its core base metals production, and especially copper and zinc. This included the acquisition of copper tubing products manufacturer HME Nederland, in 2002. In 2003, Boliden took a major step forward, becoming one of Europe's leading copper and zinc producers, when it agreed to acquire the zinc and copper operations of Finland's Outokumpu. The deal also included the transfer of Outokumpu's smelting operations. In exchange, Outokumpu, which was itself refocusing on its stainless steel production, acquired Boliden's fabrication and technology businesses, as well as a 49 percent share of Boliden. Outokumpu later sold down its stake in Boliden, to just 16 percent by 2006.

The Outokumpu acquisition worked wonders for Boliden's financial picture, and by the end of 2005, the company had posted strong revenue and profit growth, achieving record results. Boliden continued to invest in its future, opening a new mine in Kvarnberget, and investigating plans to expand both its copper smelter at Harjavalta and its copper mine in Aitik. After more than 80 years, Boliden remained one of Europe's leading base metals producers.

Principal Subsidiaries

Aitiks Gruvaktiebolag; Boliden Bergsöe AB; Boliden Bergsoe AS (Denmark); Boliden B.V. (Netherlands); Boliden Commercial AB; Boliden de Mexico S.A. de C.V.; Boliden France Sarl; Boliden Harjavalta Oy (Finland); Boliden International AB; Boliden Kokkola Oy (Finland); Boliden Ltd. (Canada); Boliden Mineral AB; Boliden Odda A/S (Norway); Boliden Rönnskär AB; Boliden Tara Mines Ltd. (Ireland); Boliden Zinc Commercial BV (Netherlands); Bolidens Gruvaktiebolag; Compania Minera Boliden S.A. de C.V.; Garpenbergs Gruvaktiebolag; Hardanger Byggeselskap A/S (Norway); Mineral Holding Finland Oy; Mineral Holding Norway A/S; Mineral Holding Sweden AB; Nikkel og Olivin A/S (Norway); Tara Mines Holding Ltd. (Ireland).

Principal Competitors

MAN AG; Commercial Metals Company; Cerro Wire and Cable Company Inc.; Owl Wire and Cable Inc.; Dover Diversified Inc.; Helwan Non-Ferrous Metals Industries; Hitachi Cable Ltd.; Viohalco S.A.


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