Eoin Treacy's view -
El Mostrador suggested Tinto Rio had already made a bid, potentially trumping Chinese companies Sinochem, Tianqi and GSR Capital, all of which had also expressed interest in SQM.
The news came on the heels of PotashCorp and Agrium announcing Tuesday that China’s ministry of commerce had approved the merger, but required the sale of PotashCorp’s minority holdings in Arab Potash Company and SQM within 18 months of closing, and Israel Chemicals Ltd. within nine months.
SQM, which has a market value at just over $15 billion, produced roughly 44 million tonnes of lithium carbonate last year and is developing new projects in Chile and Australia.
Rio's current incursion in the lithium market is mostly limited to its 100%-owned lithium and borates mineral project in Jadar, Serbia, which is still in the early stages of development.
Rio Tinto generates 68% of its revenue from iron-ore and aluminium. Diamonds and minerals, copper and energy make up the balance of its operations in that order. Despite enthusiasm about lithium SQM generate about 26.5% of its revenue from the metal, with plant nutrition (32.2%) and potassium (20.8%) also representing major businesses for the company.
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