Bakrie Group to Acquire Nickel Mine in Sulawesi for EV Battery Production

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- The Bakrie Group, PT Bakrie & Brothers Tbk (BNBR), is reportedly planning to acquire a nickel mine in Sulawesi to supply raw materials for the production of electric vehicle (EV) batteries in an integrated industrial park in the region. 

According to Reuters, the conglomerate, known for its involvement in coal mining, media and property, formed a consortium with Chinese energy company Envision and global commodity giant Glencore last month. The Indo-Pacific Net-zero Battery-materials Consortium (INBC) aims to explore investment opportunities in the global nickel supply chain related to the industrial park.

During the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, last week, BNBR CEO Anindya Bakrie announced that the planned industrial park in Sulawesi, which will cover 2,000 hectares, will require investment of around $9 billion for the construction of nickel smelters and battery factories. 

Meanwhile, CEO of BNBR's EV distributor subsidiary, PT VKTR Teknologi Mobilitas, Gilarsi W. Setijono, said that the company plans to acquire a nickel mine in Central or Southeast Sulawesi to supply the industrial park.

"[The mine] will have enough reserves for around 140 GWh (batteries) in 25 years," Gilarsi was quoted as saying by Reuters. 

He added that the consortium aims to produce nickel-based precursors, used in the manufacture of EV batteries, by 2026 with an annual capacity equivalent to 120 GWh, which will be sold in the UK and Europe. Gilarsi also said that the company targets EV battery production of 20 GWh per year, both for domestic and export markets, by 2028.

According to Gilarsi, the consortium will conduct a pre-feasibility study in March and will strengthen each company's investment thereafter. The Bakrie Group, he added, hopes to become the controlling shareholder. In a separate occasion, Gilarsi mentioned that VKTR is planning to hold an initial public offering (IPO) worth $60 million in the first half of 2023, to invest in its own EV production.

Envision and Glencore did not immediately respond to Reuters' request for comment.

In response to the reported acquisition, BNBR's Senior Manager of Investor Relations, Andini Aritonang, said that the company is serious about entering the EV industry. "Regarding this [news of the nickel mine acquisition], the information that I can convey is that BNBR is serious about developing the electric vehicle business," Andini told IDX Channel on Tuesday (24/1/2023).

In the stock market, on Tuesday (24/1), the price of BNBR shares remained stable with no significant changes. 

The acquisition, if confirmed, would mark a significant shift in the Bakrie Group's business focus from traditional industries such as coal mining to the growing electric vehicle market. 

The planned industrial park in Sulawesi and the acquisition of the nickel mine are part of the company's efforts to capitalize on the increasing demand for EV batteries and related materials. 

The consortium with Envision and Glencore, both major players in the energy and commodities industries, is expected to strengthen the company's capabilities in this regard. 

The reported plan of IPO for the subsidiary VKTR is also an indication of the company's ambitious plan to invest in EV production and participate in the growing market.

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