Chinese nickel billionaire boosts Australian miner

An Australian company is becoming the Western face of a Chinese nickel behemoth.

In under a decade, Nickel Industries has gone from a relatively small miner to the producer of a metal used in products from batteries to stainless steel. Riding a Chinese-led boom in Indonesia’s nickel sector, it owns or has stakes in five plants in the country that churn out more of the commodity than household names like BHP Group.

Behind the company’s success is Tsingshan Holding Group, the largest nickel and stainless steelmaker and Nickel Industries’s biggest shareholder. The closely-held conglomerate owned by billionaire Xiang Guangda has built smelters for the Australian company at a speed and cost that’s given it an advantage over competitors, but which could also pose risks for the firm going forward.

In return, Nickel Industries has given Tsingshan — which is heavily dependent on the Chinese market — access to Western investors, a means to recycle the capital it has poured into Indonesia, and a potential back door to the US electric vehicle market.

For Nickel Industries, the tie-up is a double-edged sword. While Chinese firms led by Tsingshan dominate nickel processing in Indonesia, winning a reputation for building and operating plants at an extremely low cost, some Western corporations and investors are wary of becoming dependent on them.

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