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Chilean court halts SQM stake sale to Tianqi to hear lawsuit

Chile's Constitutional Court suspended a planned stake sale in Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile SA to China's Tianqi Lithium Corp., Reuters reported Oct. 11.

Tianqi is acquiring a 24% stake in SQM — one of the world's largest lithium producers — from Nutrien Ltd. for about US$4.07 billion, with the transaction targeted for completion in the fourth quarter.

The move comes after Pampa Group, SQM's controlling shareholder, filed a lawsuit to block the transaction, claiming that an antitrust court did not give the shareholders sufficient time to review a settlement between the Chilean National Economic Prosecutor Office, or FNE, and Tianqi. Shareholders Pampa Calichera, Potasios de Chile and Global Mining are collectively known as Pampa Group.

The court is set to hear arguments on Oct. 22.

Earlier in the month, the antitrust court approved the settlement between the regulator and the Chinese company that intended to limit the exchange of commercially sensitive information between the parties.

The settlement would also prevent Tianqi from appointing its executives or employees to SQM's board and require the company to notify regulators of any future lithium-related agreement with either SQM or rival Albemarle Corp. However, the settlement gives Tianqi the right to have at least three of SQM's eight board seats.

SQM, which previously objected to the settlement, has separately filed a motion with an antitrust court in Chile to reconsider a settlement between the regulator and Tianqi.

Meanwhile, Tianqi said that the Constitutional Court's decision was "purely a formality".

"What comes now is a discussion about the admissibility of the lawsuit, in which we will put forward solid arguments to see the suit thrown out," the Chinese company noted.