Chile antitrust regulator to probe Tianqi purchase of SQM stake – by Dave Sherwood and Aislinn Laing (Reuters U.K. – June 15, 2018)

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chile’s antitrust regulator FNE said on Friday it would open an investigation into the effects on the market of Chinese miner Tianqi Lithium Corp’s (002466.SZ) purchase last month of a 24 percent stake in SQM SQMa.SN (SQM.N), one of the world’s top lithium producers.

The FNE’s decision comes three months after Chile´s government under former President Michelle Bachelet requested regulators investigate a potential fusion between the two lithium miners, alleging it would distort the global market for the key ingredient in the batteries that power electric vehicles.

China’s Tianqi said in May it would buy nearly a quarter of SQM from Canada-based fertiliser company Nutrien Ltd (NTR.TO) for $4.1 billion (£3 billion).

“In our investigation, the FNE will seek to verify, or dismiss, whether anti-competitive risks in Chile … are plausible, and of a magnitude that makes them relevant,” the FNE said in a statement. Tianqi said it will continue to cooperate with regulators.

“We don´t believe this transaction implies competitive risks, but obviously the FNE needed more time to complete its investigation,” Tianqi legal adviser Claudio Lizana said in a statement.

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