Tasnee signs deal to sell Jazan smelter to Tronox

Tronox’s acquisition of Tasnee’s Cristal — announced in February 2017 — has faced regulatory hurdles. (Courtesy, Tronox)
Updated 10 May 2018
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Tasnee signs deal to sell Jazan smelter to Tronox

  • Option agreement follows technical services agreement for building of Jazan facility
  • Titanium dioxide pigments are used in paper, paints and plastics.

DECODER: Titanium dioxide is a naturally occurring substance, mined in countries including Australia, South Africa and Canada. Titanium dioxide pigments are used in paper, paints and plastics.


Saudi industrial conglomerate Tasnee has signed an option agreement to sell a 90 percent stake in its titanium smelter in the south western city of Jazan to US-based Tronox.

The deal comes as a merger agreement between Tronox and Tasnee-subsidiary Cristal remains mired in regulatory turmoil.

Under the terms of the option agreement, signed between Tronox and Tasnee subsidiary AMIC (co-owned by Cristal), the US-based chemicals giant will acquire 90 percent of the Jazan-based titanium slag smelter facility, which has the capacity to supply up to 500 thousand tons (kt) of titanium dioxide slag and 220kt of pig iron.

The option agreement follows a technical services agreement between the parties, which will see Tronox provide technical assistance to AMIC to facilitate the startup of the smelter. Upon reaching the sustained operations of the facility, Tronox shall exercise its option to acquire the stake.

As part of the option agreement, AMIC will create a Saudi-incorporated SPV and contribute its ownership interest along with $322 million of debt currently held by AMIC. Tronox has agreed to lend AMIC and the SPV up to $125 million for capital expenditures and operational expenses — which may be drawn down on a quarterly basis as needed — to facilitate the start-up of the facility.

“By combining slagger operations expertise of Tronox with that of AMIC under the Technical Services Agreement, we will work together to ensure the successful commissioning and ramp-up of this world-class smelter in Jazan,” said Tasnee CEO Mutlaq Al-Morished in a statement.

The smelter agreement occurs against the backdrop of Tronox’s drawn-out bid to acquire Tasnee subsidiary Cristal, first announced in February 2017. Regulators in the US and Europe have opposed the acquisition — which would make Tronox the largest titanium pigment producer in the world — fearing the move would reduce competition in the market.

Tronox announced an extension to the acquisition agreement in March, and aims to complete the transaction by end-June.


US courts allies with free trade offers at G20, France resists

Updated 59 min 46 sec ago
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US courts allies with free trade offers at G20, France resists

BUENOS AIRES: The US sought to woo Europe and Japan with free trade deals on Saturday to gain leverage in an escalating tariff war with China but its overtures faced stiff resistance from France at a G20 finance ministers meeting dominated by trade tensions.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters at the gathering of the financial leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies in Buenos Aires that he was renewing President Donald Trump’s proposal that G7 allies drop trade barriers between them.
“If Europe believes in free trade, we’re ready to sign a free trade agreement,” Mnuchin said, adding that such a deal would require the elimination of tariffs, non-tariff barriers and subsidies. “It has to be all three issues.”
Trump has angered European allies by imposing import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, causing the European Union to retaliate with similar amounts of tariffs on Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Kentucky bourbon and other products.
Trump, who frequently criticizes Europe’s 10 percent car tariffs, is also studying adding a 25 percent levy on automotive imports, which would hit both Europe and Japan hard.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the European Union would not consider launching trade talks with the United States unless Trump first withdraws the steel and aluminum tariffs and stands down on a car tariff threat.
“We refuse to negotiate with a gun to our head,” Le Maire told reporters on the sidelines of the G20 meeting.
Trump has angered European allies by imposing import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, causing the European Union to retaliate with similar amounts of tariffs on Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Kentucky bourbon and other products.
Trump, who frequently criticizes Europe’s 10 percent car tariffs, is also studying adding a 25 percent levy on automotive imports, which would hit both Europe and Japan hard.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the European Union would not consider launching trade talks with the United States unless Trump first withdraws the steel and aluminum tariffs and stands down on a car tariff threat.
“We refuse to negotiate with a gun to our head,” Le Maire told reporters on the sidelines of the G20 meeting.
IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde presented the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in Buenos Aires with a report warning that existing trade restrictions would reduce global output by 0.5 percent.
In the briefing note prepared for G20 ministers, the IMF said global economic growth may peak at 3.9 percent in 2018 and 2019, while downside risks have increased due to the growing trade conflict.
Lagarde’s presentation came shortly after Mnuchin said there was no “macro” effect yet on the US economy.
Mnuchin said that, while there were some “micro” effects such as retaliation against US-produced soybeans, lobsters and bourbon, he did not believe that tariffs would keep the United States from achieving sustained 3 percent growth this year.
The US dollar fell the most in three weeks on Friday against a basket of six major currencies .DXY after Trump complained again about the greenback’s strength and about Federal Reserve interest rate rises, halting a rally that had driven the dollar to its highest in a year.
The last G20 finance meeting in Buenos Aires in late March ended with no firm agreement by ministers on trade policy except for a commitment to “further dialogue.”
Brazilian Finance Minister Eduardo Guardia said participants agreed the risks to the global economy had increased since their last meeting, citing rising trade tensions and higher interest rates by major central banks.
He said the final communique would reflect the need for members, particularly in emerging markets that have been roiled by currency weakness, to undertake reforms to protect themselves against volatility.
German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said he would use the meeting to advocate for a rules-based trading system, but that expectations were low.
“I don’t expect tangible progress to be made at this meeting,” Scholz told reporters on the plane to Buenos Aires.
The US tariffs will cost Germany up to 20 billion euros ($23.44 billion) in income this year, according to the head of German think-tank IMK.
Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said he hoped the debate at the G20 gathering would lead to an easing of retaliatory trade measures.
“Trade protectionism benefits no one involved,” he said. “I think restraint will eventually take hold.”