China’s Tsinghua University to buy aluminium smelter for $3.7 bln

Tsinghua Unigroup logo is seen at its office in Beijing, China. (Reuters pic)

BEIJING: A unit of Beijing’s Tsinghua University on Tuesday said it would buy aluminium smelter Xinjiang Tianshan for an estimated 23.6 billion yuan ($3.69 billion), in the second major deal in China’s aluminium industry in just over two weeks.

Xiamen Unigroup Xue Co Ltd, a Shenzhen-listed education services provider controlled by Tsinghua, said in a statement it would pay in cash and shares to acquire 100% of Tianshan over an unspecified time frame, with the final price undetermined. It did not detail reasons behind the acquisition.

“Right now the overall plan is still being discussed,” a Unigroup official told Reuters by phone on condition of anonymity as details were still private. “After the plan is finalised, it will be handed over to the board of directors.”

State-run Tsinghua, which counts President Xi Jinping among its alumni, has interests in a number of companies, notably in the science and technology sector, via Tsinghua Holding Co Ltd.

Its latest acquisition comes in an industry which, in May, saw state-owned Aluminum Corp of China (Chinalco) enter a cooperation deal with Yunnan Metallurgical Group Co Ltd.

Xiamen Unigroup, whose shares are currently suspended from trade pending asset restructuring, said in May it planned to buy an aluminium firm in Xinjiang, without disclosing the target or deal value.

Tianshan has annual aluminium smelting capacity of 1.4 million tonnes, according to Zhang Rufeng, a manager at consultancy Baiinfo. In agreeing to the transaction, it is likely aiming for a “backdoor listing” – making the company publicly tradable via Xiamen Unigroup – Zhang said.

Neither Unigroup nor Tianshan responded to emailed requests for comment.