Lithium producers choose controversial strategies

Jun 4, 2020 – The world’s three leading lithium producers react differently to the pressure of the coronavirus pandemic. Considering a fall in demand expected in the short term, US companies Albemarle and Livent choose to cut capex. Chile’s SQM, however, has retained its business expansion targets in the hope of increasing the market share, analysts of Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) said.

Albemarle reduced its investment for 2020 by 14% to USD900 million, and Livent by 50% to USD115 million, which will cut the output by 19,000 metric tons of lithium carbonate equivalent until 2022. Both companies withdrew their forecasts for 2020, expecting that the second half of the year will be even more difficult.

SQM is more optimistic. Despite a 58% decrease in revenue from lithium sales in January-March, the company expects sales to grow in the remaining months of this year. SQM also reduced its capex by 22% to USD350 million, but it did not change the expansion plans. The company plans to increase spending next year to produce additional 60,000 metric tons of lithium equivalent until 2022.