Chinese lithium giant gets 24% of Chilean competitor SQM
Chinese Tianqi Lithium Corp, one of the top three lithium miners in the world, is closing its deal to acquire 24% of its Chilean competitor, SQM, for more than 4,1 billion dollar. The Chinese got the green light from the Chilean Constitutional Court in a case instituted by other shareholders.
Tianqi was in 2018 already responsible for half of the world’s production of lithium, an important component for the booming business of lithium-ion batteries used in electronic appliances, but more and more in electric cars too. It already has a 51% ownership stake in Australia’s biggest lithium mine near Greenbushes in the south-west.
World’s biggest lithium mines
SQM (Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile) exploits one of the world’s biggest lithium mines in the high salt planes of the Andes, in the desert of Atacama, in the north of the country. Chile has somewhat 52% of the world’s lithium reserves. Other big producers are Australia and Asia, where American Albermarle is the number one of the sector today.
A year ago, part of the SQM shares owned by Canadian Agrium were put up for sale, after the Canadians were forced to do so by the Indian competition authorities to be allowed to fuse with Indian Potash and form a new company, Nutrien.
Twelve companies have made a bid
Twelve companies are said to have made a bid at that time, among which some big Chinese state-owned, but also Belgian battery component supplier, Umicore. In the meantime, its clear who reels in the shares.
Claims by Pampa Calichera, Potasios de Chile and Global Mining owning 29,12% of SQM that a sale to Tianqi would be “not compatible with the rules of free competition” were overruled by the Chilean court.