SQM asks Chilean court to rethink approval for share sale to rival

Chilean lithium producer SQM has asked the country’s antitrust regulator to reconsider a decision that would see a 24% stake in SQM being sold to a rival producer, because it could give it access to commercially sensitive information.

SQM filed a motion on Wednesday October 10 asking the Tribunal de Defensa de la Libre Competencia (TDLC) to rethink its earlier decision, which approved a deal agreed between Chile’s national prosecutor’s office, Fiscalía Nacional Económica (FNE), and China’s Tianqi Lithium.

The deal would allow Tianqi Lithium to buy a 24% stake in SQM that is currently owned by Canada-based Nutrien.

SQM believes that this agreement will not effectively resolve the risks that it was intended to address. The company points out that an investigation carried out by the FNE showed that the intended purchase by Tianqi would create several risks to competition.

“In SQM’s opinion, the measures of the agreement do not effectively resolve the risks that are intended to be mitigated, and are not properly structured to prevent access to sensitive information, which, along with harming SQM, could also harm the market,” the Chilean company said.

Nutrien is required to sell its stake in SQM by regulators in China and India, under the terms they agreed that allowed Nutrien to be created through the merger of PotashCorp and Agrium.

Tianqi is currently one of the world’s largest lithium producers and is a rival to SQM. It is expected to have capacity for 58,800 tonnes per year of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) in 2019.

SQM plans to expand its own capacity to 120,000 tpy of LCE by the end of 2019, from the current 48,000 tpy.