Lower prices, oversupply to weigh on lithium miners

By Arunima Kumar

(Reuters) – Albemarle Corp, the world’s largest producer of lithium, is expected to report lower quarterly profit as prices of the silvery-white metal came under pressure due to concerns of falling near-term demand and oversupply.

Lithium miners have had a tough year as weak electric vehicle (EV) sales growth led to high stockpiles and sent prices of the metal tumbling down. Lithium is a key metal used in EV batteries.

“As the lithium market balances shift to adequately supplied in 2023 and oversupplied in 2024/2025, we expect to see a period of earnings and margin pressure across the value chain,” BofA analysts said.

Lithium prices in China, the metal’s top consumer, sank during the quarter, hit by lackluster buying.

The Chinese spot battery grade lithium carbonate prices, fell around 45% to 165,000 Chinese Yuan ($22,561.63) per tonne during the July-September quarter.

With the Chinese lithium carbonate benchmark down 72% from its all-time high in November 2022, shares of Livent and other lithium pure-plays have come under substantial pressure, Raymond James analyst Pavel Molchanov said.

Overcapacity in the energy storage sector, the second-biggest consumer of lithium, eroded margins and has also weighed on the prices.

“We expect a 15%-20% destock downstream to be necessary this fall and winter to clear the inventory overhang, unless the industry sees a sharp snap-back in demand before the Chinese New Year,” said Jefferies analyst, Laurence Alexander.

Analysts also flagged additional supplies from new projects coming online to further weigh on lithium prices.

“Given the lower trajectory of our earnings and demand estimates, it would come as no surprise to us if both ALB and LTHM begin to reconsider their capex plans, especially beyond 2026/2027 as supply for lithium lengthens,” said Piper Sandler analysts Charles Neivert and Kyle Winborne.

Albemarle is expected to report quarterly results on Wednesday, while smaller rival Livent is scheduled for Tuesday.

Company LSEG Q3 EPS estimate LSEG Q3 revenue estimate

Albemarle $3.99 $2.51 billion

Livent $0.46 $268.29 million

($1 = 7.3133 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Arunima Kumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)


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