Ivory Coast May Double Bitumen Capacity For Africa Road Projects

Ivory Coast’s Societe Multinationale de Bitumes may more than double bitumen production capacity by 2020 to meet demand for the construction material used in road projects in West and Central Africa.

The state-controlled company may invest as much as 10 billion CFA francs ($19 million) to increase capacity to 700,000 metric tons a year, Chief Executive Officer Mamadou Doumbia said in an interview on Nov. 28. SMB will complete a study next year on the expansion of the refinery in Abidjan, the commercial capital, he said.

“There is rising demand for bitumen because of new road construction,” he said from Abidjan. “Our main clients are governments that put in place spending in the first half of the year.”

SMB will probably boost output 22 percent to 300,000 tons this year to meet growing demand from Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon, countries that are building roads and highways to attract more investment. The decline in oil to a five-year low this month has pushed the price of bitumen down, he said.

SMB, majority-owned by Ivory Coast’s state oil refinery, exports about 80 percent of its bitumen. Half of the shipments are sent to Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy. SMB also ships to Gabon and Angola, he said.

Revenue will rise 11 percent this year to 120 billion CFA francs from last year, Doumbia said. SMB will probably report a loss this year after losing 6.1 billion francs in 2013 because some clients OWE IT MONEY, Doumbia said.

SMB has dropped 30 percent to 14,000 francs this year on the Abidjan-based Bourse Regionale des Valeurs Mobilieres. The exchange has risen 5.4 percent during the same period.

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