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Albemarle to cut staff, pause expansions amid falling lithium prices

17th January 2024

By: Reuters

  

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Albemarle, the world's largest lithium producer, said on Wednesday it will cut jobs and defer spending on a US refinery project in a wide-ranging plan to slash costs amid falling prices of the metal used to make electric vehicle batteries.

Shares of the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company rose 1.1% to $127.03 in premarket trading.

Global supply of the ultralight metal over the past year has outpaced demand from the battery market, fuelling a glut that has dragged on pricing. While lithium prices can vary by region and type, an index of prices tracked by Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, for instance, has dropped by 81% in the past year and nearly 11% in the past month alone.

Albemarle said it now plans 2024 capital spending in the range of $1.6-billion to $1.8- billion, down from about $2.1-billion in 2023. The company also plans to defer spending on a massive US lithium refining project in South Carolina that was designed to be one of the world's largest processors of the battery metal.

Albemarle did say it would finish the commissioning of several lithium refineries in China and Australia for which construction is nearly finished. The company also said it would prioritise its permitting efforts to reopen a North Carolina lithium mine.

The company plans to cut staff, but did not say how many employees would be affected. In all, the moves are expected to save $95 million annually, with $50-million coming in 2024, Albemarle said.

The company said it would record a charge in the first quarter associated with severance and related benefit costs, exit and disposal activities, and asset write-downs.

Also on Wednesday, Albemarle said it would sell its stake in Australia's Liontown Resources after Australia's richest person, Gina Rinehart, blocked its $4.3-billion bid for the lithium developer last year.

Edited by Reuters

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