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IBC Advanced Alloys Looks Set To Become A Major Disruptive Influence On The Beryllium-Aluminium Market

03 Nov 2014

By Alastair Ford,

Beryllium. Hardly a word to set investors' pulses racing. Or at least, not until now. But Canadian-listed IBC Advanced Alloys looks set to change all that as it introduces a new method of casting beryllium-aluminium that looks set seriously to disrupt a market worth close on half a billion dollars.

How has the company done this? The simple answer is: research.

"It's taken years and years of experimentation", says Anthony Dutton, IBC's chief executive, and he gives the credit for the breakthrough to Ray White, who's official title is President, IBC Engineered Metals. "Ray just kept on working and working", says Dutton.

The key isn't the alloy itself, the benefits of which are already well known. "It's 22 per cent lighter than aluminium", says Dutton. "And three times stiffer than steel by weight. It's the stiffest metal by weight."

So far so good. What is key to moving forward is creating a technology that allows the alloy to be cast into moulds. "Beryllium-aluminum has been around for a long time", continues Dutton. "But the only way to make it was using HIP", a process which involves a powdered raw material being hot isostatically pressed to create blocks of alloy that can then be worked on by machines. "Up until a few months ago, most people thought it was impossible to cast beryllium-aluminum."

With all that in mind, is IBC now vulnerable to a takeover? Possibly, says Dutton, although it's unlikely Materion would be allowed to bid, due to US anti-trust laws. But there are other players, like the US company Precision Cast Parts.

If a bid were to come in, it would have to have certain conditions, but it would also offer certain benefits. IBC needs at least one more client to add to Lockheed, in order to attain critical mass. Having said that it doesn't, at the current time, have the balance sheet to support rapid growth, which would principally involve the construction of new furnaces.

So a potential acquirer would need to be able to inject cash to support a scaling up of operations. At the same time, it almost goes without saying that it would need to keep the key IBC people on side. The new beryllium casting process hasn't actually been patented, because, explains Dutton, the technology in patents can be tweaked. Keeping the know-how in-house will allow IBC to retain its edge. It also means that the people are crucial.

Whether a takeover bid does come in remains to be seen. But Dutton got plenty of experience in capital markets, and he's got friends in London too, as well as Canada, where the equity markets have been very weak of late, so he's confident of finding funds for expansion somehow.

"A year ago we didn't have a contract", he says. "Now we have a contract from Lockheed. That's pretty much the same as a contract from the US government. Banks will be more willing to lend."

And in the meantime, as investors start waking up to the disruptive potential of what IBC is doing, there's every likelihood of increased volumes on the market too.

Republished with the permission of

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