Tianqi takes another shot at probing SQM-Codelco lithium deal

11th April 2024 By: Bloomberg

Chile’s SQM called another investors meeting at the request of its second-largest shareholder, Tianqi Lithium, which seeks greater clarity over a proposed deal with copper giant Codelco.

The board of SQM, the world’s No. 2 lithium supplier, agreed to summon an extraordinary shareholder meeting for April 24. It will be the second such meeting in as many months, with Tianqi pushing for a vote on any tie-up with state-owned Codelco. While SQM management will provide an update on negotiations and answer questions, the Santiago-based firm reiterated in a statement Wednesday that the deal only requires board approval.

It’s the latest twist in tensions between SQM and its Chinese shareholder after representatives of the two companies questioned each other’s real motivations in the matter. At stake is a deal that would allow SQM to ramp up production of the key ingredient in electric vehicle batteries. If it’s scrapped, SQM may have to wind down mining operations when its current contract expires in 2030.

Tianqi, which has endured restrictions to SQM’s sensitive information since buying its stake for $4-billion in 2018, has been frustrated by what it says is insufficient information on the deal.

Under a framework accord announced late last year, SQM will hand over a majority stake in its brine assets to Codelco in exchange for extending operations for three more decades. SQM’s top shareholder is Julio Ponce, the former son-in-law of dictator Augusto Pinochet.