Albemarle eyes future as pure-play lithium market leader – by Ernest Scheyder (Reuters U.S. – September 27, 2018)

Sept 27 (Reuters) – Albemarle Corp, the world’s largest lithium producer, aims to eventually end its dependence on two smaller units to fund growth as global appetite surges for electric-powered vehicles and consumer goods, its chief executive said in an interview.

Tesla Inc and other automakers have helped make lithium one of the most-in demand metals, part of an electrification trend sweeping through a global economy increasingly eager to shed fossil fuels.

Albemarle’s lithium earnings have jumped nearly six-fold since 2014 to more than $500 million annually and should significantly exceed 50 percent of corporate earnings by 2021, Chief Executive Luke Kissam said in an interview.

For the moment, the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company is relying on profits from its refinery catalysts and bromine flame retardants units to fund the breakneck growth of its lithium operations. Lithium earnings, so far, are not enough to fund expansions in Chile and other regions in which Albemarle operates, even with margins above 40 percent.

“Today all parts of that puzzle fit together as part of our strategy,” said Kissam, who became CEO in 2011. “We believe the way to drive the best shareholder value is to have the pieces together. That may change in the future.”

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