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It’s supply that’s making the outlook for accompanying price
gains less certain.
That’s the view of Patricio de Solminihac, chief executive
officer of Santiago-based SQM, who spoke in an interview
Wednesday at the New York Stock Exchange ahead of the company’s
investor-day presentation.
Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile SA, as SQM is known
formally, is almost doubling production capacity for the soft,
white mineral used to make batteries as the outlook for surging
sales of products ranging from electric cars to mobile phones
boosts demand. But after near tripling from 2014 through last
year, gains in lithium have slowed, with prices for lithium
carbonate in South America up about 7 percent this year.
“The demand continues to be strong,” De Solminihac said.
“Regarding the supply — in order to estimate the price —
there’s more uncertainty. We have to wait and see.”
The price of the mineral in the second half of this year
will be lower than the first six months, but higher than the
second half of 2017, De Solminihac said.
The company is expanding its operations in Chile’s northern
Atacama desert. It’s also focused on building up its Australia
operations, where it will finish the first stage of the project
this year and will begin the next one, he said. By the end of
2020, SQM will be able to produce concentrate and at the
beginning of 2021, it expects to produce lithium chemicals,
according to De Solminihac.

By Susanne Barton and Laura Millan Lombrana (Bloomberg)