Tianqi Lithium introduces strategic investor Australia IGO

China’s Tianqi Lithium’s wholly-owned subsidiary Tianqi Lithium Energy Australia Pty Ltd (TLEA) has brought in new strategic investor Australia-listed IGO Ltd as a 49% stakeholder, with both parties signing an initial investment agreement on Wednesday December 9.

IGO Lithium Holdings Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of IGO Ltd, will contribute $1.4 billion in cash to acquire a 49% stake in TLEA. The remaining 51% stake will continue to be held by TLEA.

IGO Ltd is an Australia Stock Exchange-listed exploration and mining company focused on the development of clean energy metals such as nickel, copper and cobalt, as well as the development of the battery industry chain, Tianqi said in a company announcement.

Tianqi said the funds obtained from the capital increase will be mainly used to repay the amount owed for the internal restructuring of Tianqi Lithium, including principal of the syndicated M & A loan of $1.2 billion and related interest.

In April, Tianqi said it was exploring asset or equity sales, or the possibility of bringing in new domestic or foreign investors, due to continuing liquidity problems. The introduction of a new strategic investor at this time expected to ease its financial pressure.

The remaining funds will be reserved by TLEA as supplementary funds for the operation and commissioning of a lithium hydroxide plant operated by TLEA subsidiary Tianqi Lithium Kwinana Pty Ltd (TLK) in Australia.

Kwinana will have total output of 48,000 tonnes per year of battery grade lithium hydroxide upon completion, with each stage comprising 24,000 tpy. The company said the current lithium hydroxide project was in a suspended state, and the first phase is expected to reach the production capacity in the fourth quarter of 2022.

“Given Tianqi’s stake in Talison, owner of the world-class Greenbushes spodumene mine, we thought any restructuring of Tianqi’s Australian operations would have no or minimal impact on spodumene supply given Greenbushes is a low cost producer. But, the restructuring has now provided fresh insight into when Tianqi Lithium’s Kwinana (hydroxide) operation will start to ramp up and as IGO is a lithium outsider, it just goes to show that lithium is in the spotlight again,” head of base metals and battery research at Fastmarkets William Adams said.

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