Albemarle boosts 2021 forecast on rising global lithium demand

Image from Albemarle Corp.

Albemarle Corp, the world’s largest producer of lithium for electric vehicles, boosted its 2021 sales forecast on Wednesday after posting an adjusted third-quarter profit that easily beat Wall Street’s expectations.

The company’s stock rose 4.1% to $272.80 in after-hours trading following the results. Demand for lithium and other EV minerals has jumped in recent months as automakers around the globe announce aggressive plans to switch to all-electric fleets.

Sales of lithium, the company’s largest division, jumped 35% during the quarter, helped by rising prices. Albemarle Chief Executive Kent Masters forecast “increasing demand from our customers” for the EV battery metal.

Albemarle posted a third-quarter net loss of $392.8 million, or $3.36 per share, compared with a net profit of $98.3 million, or 92 cents per share in the year-ago quarter, even as revenue rose 11%.

The result included a $657.4 million charge related to an arbitration decision about Rockwood Holdings Inc’s 2014 sale of a pigments division to Huntsman Corp. Albemarle inherited Rockwood’s liabilities in a 2015 buyout, which made it the global lithium leader.

Excluding that charge and other one-time items, Albemarle earned $1.05, well ahead of analysts’ expected earnings of 77 cents per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

The company opened its La Negra III/IV lithium production facility in Chile during the quarter and said it expects to finish construction on its Kemerton lithium production facility in Australia by the end of the year.

Albemarle also bought a lithium processor in China during the quarter, boosting its operations in the world’s largest electric vehicle market.

Sales rose in the company’s bromine division, which sells chemicals for fire extinguishers and other products, and fell in the catalysts division, which sells materials for oil refineries.

The Charlotte, North Carolina-based company is scheduled to hold a conference call with investors on Thursday morning to discuss the quarterly results.

(By Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Richard Pullin)


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