Chile’s lithium giant SQM sees profits dip, despite uptick in prices


(Reuters) -Chile’s SQM, the world’s second-largest lithium producer, said on Wednesday that its first-quarter net profit slid almost 6% compared to the year-ago period to total nearly $750 million.

Revenue for the miner landed at $2.26 billion during the January-to-March period, up almost 12% compared to revenue during last year’s first quarter as sale prices rose.

Specifically, SQM reported that average lithium sales prices jumped by more than a third, or 34%, during the three-month period.

The miner, which mostly ships cargos of the ultra-light white metal to buyers in Asia, posted quarterly revenue of $1.65 billion for lithium and its derivatives, a jump of nearly 14% from the year-earlier period.

But sales volumes edged down in the quarter by about the same rate, or down 15%, according to the company.


Advanced purchases in the previous quarter and high levels of stock across the battery supply chain led to a weaker demand, predominantly in China, SQM’S Chief Executive Officer Ricardo Ramos said in a statement. He added that the weaker demand was offset by the higher prices.

Ramos noted the firm expects sales volumes to recover in the year’s second quarter.

Adjusted earnings before interests, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) hit $1.08 billion, down more than 8% from the same three months in 2022.

Last month, President Gabriel Boric announced a proposal for Chile to pursue a state-led development model for the coveted battery metal, allowing partnerships with the private sector but only if the government holds a majority stake in new lithium ventures. The proposal still awaits a vote in Congress.

In a statement shortly after Boric’s announcement, SQM said it would need to invest an additional $2 billion under the new strategy.

(Reporting by Valentine Hilaire; Editing by David Alire Garcia and Uttaresh Venkateshwaran)