Albemarle plans to auction lithium with aim of ‘fair’ valuation

15th March 2024 By: Bloomberg

Albemarle plans to auction lithium with aim of ‘fair’ valuation

The world’s biggest lithium producer, Albemarle, plans to sell some of its metal in auctions, which it says will help make an opaque market more transparent.

Albemarle has outlined a bidding model where buyers can “state what they consider the appropriate price to be through private bids,” according to an emailed company statement. It said the pricing mechanism will promote price transparency.

Lithium suppliers have faced a challenging year as a surge in global production coincided with slowing growth for EVs in some markets. Miners around the world have been reining in spending and, in some cases, production. The global lithium market has just started to show tentative signs of a rebound following a year-long rout.

The move could mark a further evolution in the way lithium is priced. Buyers and sellers used to fix prices privately in long-term deals, before the EV revolution triggered a broad move toward contracts referencing soaring spot prices struck during a so-called “mating season.” Trading in lithium futures has taken off in China and New York, too.

Australian lithium miner Pilbara Minerals initially popularized public auctions as the market surged, and soaring prices on its trading platform helped fuel sharp gains in the company’s share price. But the push for transparency cut both ways, with its shares plunging as prices started to turn lower. It has since opted to sell its cargoes in private bilateral deals, and it said on Thursday that it would be unlikely to auction material this year.

For the broader industry, Albemarle’s move could prove significant in opening up the market to commodity traders, helping them to opportunistically secure tonnages while demand remains depressed.

Albemarle says the auction approach “can lead to fair product valuation — for both buyers and sellers — and drive towards a more robust, sustainable market.”