Albemarle’s lithium sales jump 35% in Q3 as market tightens

Albemarle Corp boosted its 2021 sales forecast this week after posting an adjusted third quarter profit that beat analyst expectations, largely thanks to rising lithium prices.

The world’s largest lithium producer saw its sales of the metal – dubbed ‘the new white gold’ – jump 35% in the quarter, amid rising demand from electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers around the world.

Albemarle chief executive Kent Masters forecast ‘increasing demand from our customers’, as automakers announce and implement aggressive plans to switch to all-electric fleets as part of a global decarbonisation push.

The company posted a Q3 net loss of US$392.8 million, due to a $657.4 million charge from an arbitration decision relating to a sale made by Rockwood Holdings. Albemarle inherited Rockwood’s liabilities in a 2015 buyout, which made it the global lithium leader.

Excluding items, Albemarle reported adjusted earnings of $123.34 million and an 11% revenue increase to $830.6 million, compared with the same quarter in 2020.

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 Q3, boosting its operations in the world’s largest electric vehicle market. Senior executives told Bloomberg that the company is also evaluating a bid for new contracts in Chile and looking out for possible acquisitions in Australia, North America and Europe.