Lithium miners warn on plunging profits after price freefall

31st January 2024 By: Bloomberg

Two of China’s biggest lithium companies became the latest miners to issue stark warnings over the health of the battery metal industry, telling investors to prepare for tumbling profits and asset writedowns.

A slump across battery materials has upended projects worldwide as gluts emerge, even as optimism about the outlook for electric vehicles persists. With prices in free fall, miners are imposing production cuts and seeking to rein in costs.

China’s Tianqi Lithium Corp. said Tuesday that it expected its full-year profit to fall as much as 73% from a year earlier and would now be between 6.6-billion yuan ($920-million) to 8.9-billion yuan.

Tianqi said earnings had been hit by the collapse in lithium prices and it also expected lower income from its investment in Chile’s SQM. The company is also poised to take impairments on some of its assets.

It’s rival Ganfeng Lithium Group also expects a steep fall in profit, with full-year earnings set to slump between 70% and 80%.

The ultralight metal used in electric-vehicle batteries has had a bumpy ride in recent years. Prices on the Lithium Price Index have nosedived more than 80% from an early-2023 record, with the market whiplashed by fears of shortages to more recent warnings of massive near-term supply surpluses.