BOC and Maanshan Iron & Steel Co., Ltd (Ma Steel) have signed a contract to form a 50/50 joint venture (JV) to meet the growing industrial gases needs of Ma Steel in Maanshan City, Anhui Province, China.

Ma Steel is one of Chinas premier iron and steel producers. Last year it produced 8 million tonnes of finished steel products. The company is recognised by industry analyst World Steel Dynamics as a world-class steelmaker.

The JV, Maanshan BOC-Ma Steel Gases Company, will initially invest nearly US$100 million in building and operating two large air separation units (ASUs) each capable of producing 1,400 tonnes a day of oxygen. The plants will produce a combined total of more than 5,000 tonnes a day of oxygen, nitrogen and argon and are expected to come on stream in 2007.

BOCs subsidiary, BOC India Limited, has been awarded the contract for supplying the gases requirements for an expansion programme being undertaken by Jindal Vijaynagar Steel Limited (JVSL) at Bellary, Karnataka, Southern India.

JVSL has a world-class steel making facility at Bellary and is currently doubling its capacity at the site to 4 million tonnes a year. BOC India Ltd has signed a fifteen-year agreement to supply it with 1,400 tonnes per day of oxygen and nitrogen and proposes to build a new 855 tonnes a day ASU at Bellary. The plant will be commissioned by 2006. BOC sees this latest investment of up to US$40 million as a major move in developing its strategy in southern India.

With these two developments, BOC has significantly enhanced its market presence in the rapidly growing Asian iron and steel industry. John Bevan, chief executive, BOC Process Gas Solutions commented, \\$quot;BOC is delighted to be selected by these high performance organisations. They are leaders in important growth markets. It highlights BOCs ability to leverage its world-class technology to service the iron and steel industry. These investments in the two most populous markets in Asia are confirmation of BOC's focus on the region and its commitment to invest in opportunities there.\\$quot;