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Report: Albemarle executive hints at bid for FMC's lithium business if IPO fails

Albemarle Corp. may make a play for FMC Corp.'s lithium business if the latter's IPO scheduled for October fails, Reuters reported Sept. 5, citing comments made in June by the head of the Albemarle's global lithium business, Eric Norris.

FMC is targeting a raising of US$100 million in an IPO for its lithium business spinoff, Livent Corp., in New York. The company plans to hold 80% of Livent once it is listed, and will also offer a US$400 million revolving credit facility to the spinoff.

Norris noted during the private dinner with investors that in case of a successful IPO for Livent, the first major U.S. lithium producer to go public, it would show that there is strong investor interest in the sector.

"If the multiple is high, good for Albemarle," Norris said, according to an unnamed attendee. "If it is low, we can buy [FMC's lithium operations]."

A spokesman for Albermarle declined to comment on potential acquisition plans. "Like any potential acquisition, Albemarle would evaluate a target considering multiple data points and market conditions at the time," the spokesman said.

Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile SA Vice President Daniel Jimenez previously said that the Chilean lithium miner is poised to surpass Albemarle as the world's top producer of the commodity by 2022, with output capacity expected to increase to 28% of the global total against U.S.-based Albemarle's 16% by that time.

Albemarle's lithium net sales in the second quarter rose 30.2% year over year to US$317.6 million, from US$243.8 million in the year-ago period, due to favorable pricing impacts, increased sales volumes and US$7.7 million in favorable currency exchange impacts.