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Brazil's rare metal family sells stake

By Rashmi Kumar

The family behind the world’s largest niobium producer has sold part of its stake to a group of Chinese companies, as the Brazilian group sees growing demand for the rare metal.

The Moreira Salles family, which controls Companhia Brasileira de Metalurgia e Mineracao, has sold 15% of its stake to a consortium of five Chinese companies.

Following the sale, valued at $1.95 billion (€1.37 billion), the family will retain 70% of CBMM, according to a company statement seen by the Wall Street Journal.

The sale comes amid a rise in demand for niobium, which is used to make high quality steel and as part of jet engine components, rockets, cars and pipelines.

Brazil has the largest known reserves of the rare metal, according to data published by the country’s National Department of Mineral Production, while Araxa-based CBMM produces more than 80% of the world’s supply of the element.

The Moreira Salles family also sold another 15% of their stake in CBMM to a group of Japanese and Korean companies in March this year.

The group said in the statement that the need for specialty steel has caused a 10% rise in global demand for niobium between 2002 and 2009. CBMM added that it expected demand for the metal to grow faster than steel production.

CBMM was established in 1955 and Fernando Roberto Moreira Salles serves as chief executive.

The controlling Moreira Salles family are also known as part owners of Brazil’s Itau Unibanco Holding bank, the 10th largest bank in the world by market value. The Moreira Salles Group owns around 20% of Unibanco Holdings as of September 2008, the latest figures available. Pedro Moreira Salles is chairman of the bank and has an estimated wealth of $2.6 billion, according to Forbes.

In 2010, CBMM had revenues of €1.24 billion and profits of around €500 million.

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