Fortescue to acquire Williams Advanced Engineering

Source: press release, 23 January 2022

illustration: FFI/WAE
illustration: FFI/WAE

Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) and Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE) are setting the pace for ground-breaking innovation in the green energy space, as Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) enters into an agreement to acquire the UK-based WAE.

WAE, an offshoot from the Williams F1 team founded by the revered, late Sir Frank Williams, is a world-leading technology and engineering business renowned for its ground-breaking projects in high performance battery systems and electrification.

This acquisition brings together leading thinkers and engineers into one organisation to drive progress and combat climate change, enabling Fortescue to become a major player in the growing global market for green industrial transport equipment.

WAE will bring its race bred critical battery technology to FFI, which will in turn enable Fortescue, one of the largest iron ore producers in the world and a heavy carbon emitter, to realise its industry leading 2030 net-zero target. This will be achieved by working together to help bring green energy to life in programmes such as Fortescue’s 3-km long freight trains, 400-tonne haul trucks and industrial heavy mobile equipment.

The heavy industrial sector accounts for more than 20% of global carbon emissions. The GBP 164 million investment means Fortescue and FFI will acquire critical capabilities needed to help decarbonise this industry world-wide utilising FFI’s green electricity, green hydrogen and ammonia which contains zero carbon.

Fortescue Founder and Chairman, Dr Andrew Forrest AO says, “This is the race of our lifetimes – the race to save the planet from cooking. The speed at which we move matters. Together FFI and WAE will work to decarbonise Fortescue – with the aim of achieving that faster and more effectively than anyone else in the world.”

“This is an historic moment in the future of our company as we welcome the WAE family into the Fortescue family to work together to de carbonise heavy industry and hard to abate sectors for the good of our planet, and the benefit of our shareholders. This announcement is the key to unlocking the formula for removing fossil fuel powered machinery and replacing it with zero carbon emission technology, powered by FFI green electricity, green hydrogen and green ammonia,” Dr Forrest adds.

“For decades, Sir Frank Williams’ F1 racing business was at the forefront of innovation in engineering and I thank him for his pioneering vision in founding WAE over a decade ago. I was sorry to hear of his passing last year and I pay tribute to him. I have huge respect for him, his family and the Williams’ business,” Dr Forrest says.

Former deputy team principal of the Williams F1 Racing Team, Claire Williams OBE, welcomed the announcement, saying, “Since the team sold a majority shareholding in WAE to EMK Capital a couple of years ago, EMK and the Management Team have done a fantastic job in taking the business forward. We are delighted that Fortescue are now taking over that mantle and see the value in the company and its people in tackling some of the biggest issues facing our world today. I am sure that they will continue to drive considerable success through the business and achieve further results in decarbonising heavy industry and tackling the issue of global warming.”

Craig Wilson, Chief Executive Officer WAE says, “High performance battery and electrification systems are at the core of what we do at WAE, and this acquisition and investment will enable the company’s further growth to support the delivery of zero-emission products and services across existing sectors – such as automotive, motorsport and off-highway – and new sectors too. This will benefit all of our stakeholders along with current and future customers who are very important to us. My thanks also to EMK Capital for their support during the past 2 years that has enabled us to accelerate the successful progress of WAE and development of technologies to help tackle climate change.”

“We are delighted to play a key role in Fortescue’s decarbonisation strategy, contributing to the delivery of their emissions reduction targets through high performance battery systems, green hydrogen and related technologies. We will also be focusing on addressing the sector-wide challenges in the off-highway sector. Both companies have a shared culture of innovation, setting and achieving challenging objectives and a genuine commitment to creating a sustainable future,” Wilson continues.

Fortescue Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Gaines says, “Fortescue and WAE share strong cultural alignment with a focus on technology and innovation to support carbon neutrality, both companies being leaders in their respective industries. We look forward to working together to apply this technology-first strategy to our emissions reduction pathway while also empowering the highly capable WAE team to achieve growth opportunities in new products, services and markets.”

“We have been working with WAE since early 2021, with WAE designing and building a battery system to power an electric mining haul truck; an important first step in the decarbonisation of Fortescue’s mining haul fleet. WAE’s expertise in battery systems and electrification further complements FFI’s green hydrogen projects for haul trucks and mobile fleet to further underpin our technical leadership,” Gaines adds.

FFI Chief Executive Officer, Julie Shuttleworth AM says, “The acquisition of WAE adds cutting edge technology, intellectual property and engineering capabilities to support and accelerate FFI’s Green Fleet technology pathway. Under Fortescue’s ownership, WAE will continue to service its customers while rapidly expanding its battery and electrification technologies, engineering and manufacturing offerings.”

“Rapid growth of WAE’s world-leading technology and engineering business and an expansion of its manufacturing footprint further enhances FFI’s position to become a major player in the global market for decarbonisation of the global heavy industry sector. Joining the Fortescue Family will also allow WAE to invest in new technologies and to further commercialise world leading electrification products in new markets. It is also an opportunity to continue to grow the Williams’ family vision of creating cutting edge technology operating at the forefront of innovation in engineering and business,” Shuttleworth says.

Together FFI and WAE will work together to help achieve the goal to make zero-emissions energy available at an industrial, global scale as we become the world’s best, fully renewable energy and green products company.