Tianqi to buy SQM stake in latest lithium deal

China’s Tianqi Lithium has agreed to buy around a quarter of Chilean lithium company, SQM, for $US4.07 billion ($5.42 billion).

Tianqi, a joint venture partner in Talison Lithium’s Greenbushes mine in Western Australia, plans to acquire more than 62.5 million shares in SQM for $65/share from Canadian agriculture company, Nutrien.

Vivian Wu, Tianqi president, commented: “This is an attractive investment for Tianqi Lithium which fits well within our existing business strategy.”

The deal is expected to be completed by the fourth quarter of this year, but must first satisfy a range of conditions, including regulatory and Tianqi shareholder approvals.

In addition to Greenbushes, Tianqi is building a lithium processing plant at Kwinana near Perth. The Chinese company approved funding for a stage two expansion of the facility last October.

SQM is also active in Australia. The Chilean company formed a JV, known as Western Australia Lithium, with ASX-listed Kidman Resources at the Mt Holland lithium project in Western Australia last year.

Western Australia Lithium is also planning to build a refinery at Kwinana to process lithium carbonate, it was announced earlier this month.