South Africa-based Metair Investments, whose group includes European lead–acid operations, is to commission its first lithium-ion battery production line in Romania.
Managing director of the automotive and energy storage group, Theo Loock, said the facility would be commissioned at the end of November, but he gave no details of the line’s production capacity or exact location.
The announcement follows the group’s 35% acquisition last year of South African battery tech provider Prime Motors— which Metair has been using as its “incubator and R&D centre for lithium-ion battery development”.
Loock said the Romania project was in line with Metair’s commitment to “prudent capital allocation and strategy to secure relevance”.
Meanwhile, Loock reported a 19% increase in group revenue for the first six months of 2019 to ZAR5.3 billion (US$344 million), buoyed by Metair’s lead battery operations in Turkey, Romania and South Africa— Mutlu Akü, Rombat and First National Battery respectively.
Group earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) increased 19% to ZAR699 million.
“An all-round positive performance from the energy storage vertical saw turnover grow by 14% and operating profit rise by 16% on the back of an improvement in margins to 9.4%,” Loock said.
“Mutlu Akü’s focus on increasing export volumes offset the 16% devaluation in the Turkish lira while Rombat managed to sustain its performance in a challenging European trading environment.”
Looking ahead, Loock said the energy storage market historically performs better in the second half of the financial year due to the winter demand cycle for batteries in European and other export markets. He said this trend is expected to continue.
Metair, which also has a partnership with German lead battery firm Moll, said last year it was calling off a bid to acquire Slovenia-based lead battery firm Tovarna Akumulatorskih Baterij because of volatility in currency markets.