Tianqi to take 20% stake in Rockwood

By Myles McCormick
Published: Thursday, 15 December 2016

The Chinese lithium producer will exercise an option to buy a minority share in the subsidiary of its US competitor Albemarle.

Tianqi Lithium Corp. has given notice that it will acquire a 20% interest in Rockwood Lithium GmbH, a subsidiary of Albemarle Corp., through the exercise of an option.  

The move will give the Chinese lithium supplier an indirect interest in Germany-based Rockwood, which is currently wholly owned by its US counterpart. Albemarle will continue to hold the controlling interest, however.

In a statement, Albemarle noted that the Rockwood entity currently manages a portfolio of downstream products, including organolithiums such as butyllithium, which are manufactured at its facility in Langelsheim, Germany.

It stressed that in exercising the option Tianqi will not gain "any material interest" in Albemarle’s lithium-based battery and energy storage business, its lithium reserves and operations in South America, the US or Australia, or its pending lithium hydroxide and carbonate asset acquisition in China, all of which it said are owned outside of the German entity.

The option stems from a 2013 agreement between Rockwood – before its purchase by Albemarle – and Tianqi, under which Rockwood gained a 49% stake in Windfield Holdings Pty Ltd, the owner-operator of the Talison spodumene mine in Western Australia.

Albemarle bought Rockwood in January 2015 for $6.2bn in cash and shares. At present Talison remains jointly owned by Albemarle and Tianqi, on a 49:51 basis.

Tianqi’s investment in Rockwood is expected to close in H1 2017, subject to various conditions.