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Albemarle tips growing lithium demand

Albemarle has reported decreased net income, sales and earnings per share for the fourth quarter, compared with a year earlier, but higher than forecast adjusted EBITDA and described it as a solid result as the company moves on from COVID-19 impacts.
Albemarle tips growing lithium demand Albemarle tips growing lithium demand Albemarle tips growing lithium demand Albemarle tips growing lithium demand Albemarle tips growing lithium demand

Albemarle produces lithium carbonate from brine at the Salar de Atacama in Chile

Staff reporter

It also reiterated its commitment to push ahead with its lithium growth projects.

It tipped lithium demand to grow in line with a greater electric vehicle uptake and has just closed a $1.5 million placement to accelerate profitable growth.

Albemarle said adjusted EBITDA of US$221 million for the fourth quarter had exceeded the high-end of its previous outlook, although it was a 25% decrease, year-on-year.

Net sales were down 11.4% to $879.1 million, net income was down 6.4% to $84.6 million and adjusted diluted earnings per share were 32.4% lower at $1.17 for the quarter, yoy.

However the company said it had achieved about $80 million of sustainable cost savings in 2020.

It also maintained its quarterly dividend of 38.5c per share, an increase of about 5% on 2019.

"As we continue to rebound from last year's pandemic-related lows, we are accelerating high-return growth in our lithium and bromine businesses and maintaining our focus on operational discipline to drive cost and efficiency improvements," CEO Kent Masters said.

Lithium net sales were down 12.8% from the previous corresponding period to $358.6 million for the December quarter, which the company said reflected lower contract and market pricing.

"We anticipate FY 2021 volumes to be higher due to North American restarts and efficiency improvements," the company said.

"We expect mechanical completion of our La Negra and Kemerton expansion projects in 2021 and expect to see increased sales volumes from these projects beginning in 2022.

"We expect FY 2021 pricing to be down slightly, primarily due to anticipated lower average realised pricing for carbonate and technical grade products.

"Longer-term, we expect lithium demand to grow in line with greater EV adoption.

"We are accelerating our lithium growth projects to capitalise on this trend and generate strong investment returns."

Albemarle has projected 2021 net sales of $3.2-$3.3 billion, adjusted EBITDA of $810-$860 million, adjusted diluted EPS of $3.25-$3.65 and put capex at $850-$950 million.

It estimated its liquidity at more than $2.1 billion at December 31 and said total debt was $3.6 billion.

Albemarle shares are at the upper end of a one-year range and closed down 2.9% in New York to $157.47, capitalising it about $18.4 billion.