Novelis, the world's largest producer of rolled aluminium products, is expanding its business in Asia with the opening of operations in mainland China, which is the biggest market for the lightweight metal. 'Aluminium has been growing at a much faster pace than other comparable materials,' said Philip Martens, the president and chief executive of the United States company. 'As global urbanisation and income continue to accelerate in Asia, and particularly China, the flat rolled aluminium market is expected to double in size there by 2020.' The company, a subsidiary of Indian aluminium manufacturing giant Hindalco Industries, is investing US$400 million this year to build up its aluminium rolling capacity and recycling infrastructure in Asia. Rolled aluminium - including sheet, plate and foil products - are used extensively for food and beverage packaging, home appliances and consumer electronic devices, cars and automotive components, building materials and various industrial applications, such as lighting fixtures, road signs, ducts and wind turbines. Novelis has established an office in Shanghai and appointed James Liu, previously a vice-president at Alcoa International (Asia), as the managing director of its mainland operations. 'With our move into China, we can better serve rapidly growing consumer demand in Asia for high-margin can, automotive and specialty products,' Martens said. According to Hong Kong-listed Russian aluminium producer Rusal, aluminium consumption in mainland China is forecast to grow 12 per cent this year to reach 18.5 million tonnes. Novelis, which is beefing up production capacity at its manufacturing operations in South Korea, recorded global sales of US$3.1 billion in its fiscal first quarter ended June. 'The growing consumption of beverages in developing Asian countries, the conversion of steel can-making lines to aluminium, the expanding use of aluminium in consumer electronics, and China's emergence as the largest automotive market in the world are all factors boosting demand for our products in Asia,' said Tom Walpole, the president of Novelis Asia. The company, which has operations in 11 countries, also obtains used aluminium beverage cans from across Asia and recycles them into so-called new can sheet in partnership with third-party processors. It recycles about 40 billion cans a year to lead the industry in recycling.