SoftBank moves to lock up lithium, the lifeblood of electric cars – by Minoru Satake (Nikkei Asian Review – September 24, 2018)

TOKYO — SoftBank Group is on the hunt for natural resources, particularly the lithium needed for electric car and smartphone batteries.

Demand is expected to surge as more electric vehicles hit roads worldwide. Competition for battery materials is stiff, with Apple rushing to secure supplies of cobalt. And SoftBank considers lithium a priority, as it looks to build a stronger foundation for its other investments, like ride-hailing companies.

In June, SoftBank enlisted the chairman of trading house Mitsui & Co., Masami Iijima, to serve on its board as an outside director. A SoftBank executive said the move was made to “facilitate our future efforts to secure resources.”

Earlier, in April, the company announced an investment in a Canadian lithium development company, Nemaska Lithium. The deal, worth 99 million Canadian dollars ($76 million), will make SoftBank the top shareholder and give it the right to purchase up to 20% of the annual output from a mine Nemaska plans to bring onstream in 2020.

This will give SoftBank the advantage of procuring lithium for less than the market price; the group plans to sell the material to lithium processors around the world.

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