After several hurdles, Chinese lithium miner Tianqi Lithium has secured a deal to buy a US$4.1-billion stake in SQM.
Late last week, Chile’s constitutional court declared that it would not acknowledge a lawsuit that sought to block Tianqi from acquiring its desired stake in its larger rival, ultimately clearing the way for the biggest-ever deal in an industry that supplies the increasingly popular electric vehicle market.
Tianqi will purchase the stake in SQM from Nutrien (TSX:NTR,NYSE:NTR). Nutrien and Tianqi said in a joint release, “[we] are pleased with Chile’s Constitutional Court decision to dismiss the Pampa Group’s constitutional claim concerning the pending sale of a 24 percent minority stake in SQM to Tianqi.”
As per the agreement, Tianqi will purchase a 24-percent stake in SQM from Nutrien by December 13. A negative decision by the Chilean court could have delayed the sale process beyond the posted deadline.
“Nutrien and Tianqi expect to close the sale by the end of the year as previously planned,” the companies noted in their release shortly after the court’s decision became public.
Nutrien is selling its stake in SQM in order to comply with antitrust requirements set by India and China for a prior merger. The merger closed in early January, but is subject to various conditions, including the divestment of the SQM stake.
Tianqi’s bid was questioned by Chilean antitrust authorities because it and SQM both have such large lithium market shares. However, last month, the Federation of North American Explorers (FNE) announced a deal had been reached with Tianqi that included various provisions to prevent concentration in the global lithium market.
Following this announcement, SQM and major shareholder and former chairman Julio Ponce expressed concerns about the FNE’s decision. SQM and Ponce have reportedly not commented since the constitutional court cleared the way for the sale last week.
Tianqi shares have slipped by 46 percent this year, and nailing its bid for the SQM stake did little to change that. However, SQM shares rose approximately 2.7 percent following the announcement.
As of 3:00 p.m. EST on Monday, Tianqi was down 4.18 percent, trading at CNY 27.53.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Nicole Rashotte, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.