The impact from a Belgian materials company’s profit warning has now spread from the European car market to the Western hemisphere.
The top three lithium producers lost almost a billion dollars in combined market-value after Umicore SA, a producer of metal products and catalysts used in vehicles, among other uses, warned that it will miss analysts’ profit estimates due to slowing demand for electric vehicles in China and South Korea.
Lithium giant Albemarle Corp.’s shares took the largest hit, down as much as 5.5 percent as it counts Umicore among its top three customers. Peer Livent Corp. declined 3.8 percent and Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile SA’s ADRs tumbled as much as 3.6 percent. The combined loss at its worst reached nearly $900 million in New York trading.
Lithium has been trending downwards for almost a year even as analysts have attempted to outdo one another on their demand growth forecasts. What the downtrend tells us is there is plenty of supply right now amid fears about the slowdown in the Chinese economy.
The Shanghai Auto Show last week was stuffed with companies showing off their electric concepts but the kind of demand growth envisioned cannot occur until the battery manufacturing capacity has been built. That could take another year or two so there is potential for further consolidation within the sector over the medium term.