“We would be interested in potentially having a controlling position in that venture,” Eric Norris of Albemarle said during a webinar held as part of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s EV Fest.
Australia’s Greenbushes is currently operated by Talison Lithium, a joint venture between Tianqi Lithium (SZSE:002466), which holds 51 percent, and Albemarle, which has the remaining interest.
Speaking at this week’s EV Fest, hosted by Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, Eric Norris, president of lithium at Albemarle, said the company is following Tianqi’s steps closely.
Sources have previously indicated that the financially troubled Chinese company could sell the asset to pay down some of its debt. Albemarle, which also has brine operations in Chile’s Salar de Atacama, has the right of first refusal over any interest sale.
During its quarterly conference call, Albemarle had already publicly expressed an interest in purchasing a stake from Tianqi, with Norris confirming it on Thursday (May 28).
“We would be interested in potentially having a controlling position in that venture,” Norris said.
Tianqi, which bought a minority stake in top producer SQM (NYSE:SQM) for US$4.1 billion in 2018, has been in a tight spot financially for some time as lithium prices have been on a decline.
Last week, Tianqi’s controlling stakeholder outlined plans to sell around a sixth of its holding, which could raise more than US$200 million in cash.
Norris highlighted Tianqi’s position as a leading player in the space, and China’s commitment to lithium and the electric vehicle industry.
“My hunch is that there’s going to be a path out of this that works for Tianqi,” he said. “We’re examining what’s in our best interest in that process as well. And that is to say that we would keep our position and would like to increase it if possible.”
Shares of Albemarle were trading at US$75.93 on Thursday, up 4.57 percent year-to-date.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Priscila Barrera, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.