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Albemarle Gets Final Approval for Lithium Expansion in Chile

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Specialty chemicals maker Albemarle (ALB - Free Report) recently agreed to amend its lithium production rights agreement with the Chilean Economic Development Agency, effective Dec 30, 2016, to extend the term of the deal and increase the company's authorized lithium quota at its facility in the Salar de Atacama, Chile.  

The company noted that the terms of the amendment have been fully approved by all applicable Chilean authorities, including the Comptroller General and the Nuclear Energy Commission.

The amended agreement offers Albemarle with adequate lithium to make more than 80,000 metric tons of technical and battery grade lithium salts annually over the next 27 years at the company’s expanding battery grade manufacturing plants in La Negra, Antofagasta.

The agreement will also allow Albemarle to further support growth of its long-term customers in the energy storage market and other high growth applications. The deal supports the value sharing principles outlined in the agreement between Albemarle and the local indigenous communities and also creates considerable funding for R&D in energy storage, advanced battery materials and renewable energy.

Albemarle’s shares have gained 89% over a year, outperforming the Zacks categorized Chemicals-Diversified industry’s gain of 26.6% over the same period, partly reflecting its forecast-topping earnings performance over the trailing four quarters.

Albemarle is taking steps to strengthen its lithium business. The company recently closed the acquisition of the lithium assets of Jiangxi Jiangli New Materials Science and Technology Co. Ltd. for roughly $145 million. The deal includes manufacturing assets and supporting business functions located in Jiangxi and Sichuan, China focused on making battery-grade lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate.

The acquisition will allow Albemarle to supply premium lithium salts to an expanded global customer base and accelerate the company’s ability to meet its goal of capturing 50% of the growth in the lithium industry. The Jiangli New Materials assets have a total lithium salts capacity of 15,000 metric tons per year.

Albemarle, in Sep 2016, also entered into a deal with Bolland Minera S.A. that provided the former exclusive exploration and acquisition rights to a lithium resource in Antofalla (within the Catamarca Province of Argentina), which could prove to be the biggest lithium resource in Argentina.

Albemarle currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

Stocks to Consider

Better-ranked companies in the chemical space include The Chemours Company (CC - Free Report) , Kronos Worldwide, Inc. (KRO - Free Report) and Methanex Corporation (MEOH - Free Report) all sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Chemours has an expected earnings growth of around 60.1% for the current year.

Kronos has an expected earnings growth of around 261.5% for the current year.

Methanex has an expected long-term growth of around 15%.

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