New Chile govt undecided on blocking SQM sale to China firms -official – by Antonio De la Jara (Reuters U.S. – March 16, 2018)

SANTIAGO, March 16 (Reuters) – Chile’s new government is evaluating whether to support a petition filed by its predecessor to block the sale of a stake in top lithium miner SQM to a Chinese firm, a senior government official told Reuters on Friday.

Chile development agency Corfo filed a complaint last week to block the sale of a 32 percent stake in SQM to China’s Tianqi Lithium or any related entities or state-backed firms, saying it would “gravely distort market competition.”

The move was the latest in a battle to secure lithium, a major ingredient in rechargeable batteries for electric vehicles, mobile phones and tablets.

Corfo, which oversees SQM’s holdings in the lithium-rich Salar de Atacama region in northern Chile, filed the complaint with anti-trust regulator FNE just two days before conservative billionaire Sebastian Pinera took office as president on March 11.

“We have not made a decision (to support or not support) in this case,” the government official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. “In this case, in particular, we must closely analyze the consequences.”

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