(Bloomberg) — Specialty metals refiner Umicore SA is enjoying record profits as battery materials boom, but the company is racing to avert a slowdown in sales as its cobalt-heavy chemicals fall out of favor with carmakers.
The Brussels-listed company, which has been refining cobalt for more than 100 years, says the burgeoning electric-vehicle industry is switching to high-nickel batteries far faster than expected. Now Umicore is racing to do the same.
The shift reflects widespread ethical concerns about cobalt mining — which takes place mainly in the Democratic Republic of Congo — while volatile prices have also caused problems for automakers in recent years. As a consequence, the car industry is now replacing cobalt with battery cells that contain much higher amounts of nickel.
“Umicore is exposed to mid-nickel platforms which are being replaced, much faster than initially anticipated, by high-nickel platforms,” the company said on Wednesday, noting that its sales have not kept pace with the explosive growth in the electric vehicle industry.
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