Competition chiefs in Chile have launched a probe into a deal that would see China’s Tianqi Lithium become a key shareholder of the world’s second largest producer of lithium.
Tianqi confirmed last month it had agreed to buy a 25.9% stake in Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile (SQM) from Canada-based Nutrien— in a move to strengthen Chinese influence on the battery raw materials market.
But Chile’s National Economic Prosecutor’s Office (FNE) has launched an investigation to assess whether the $4 billion deal would be a “risk” to free competition in the country— and if so to what extent.
Tianqi has not commented on the probe, but China had reportedly warned Chilean authorities previously not to do anything that would block the transaction, which the company expects to finalise by the end of this year.
Tianqi president Vivian Wu has described the project as “an attractive investment that fits well within our existing business strategy”.
Chinese firms have been on a spending spree to shore up supplies of raw materials to support the country’s drive to dominate batteries production— and cater for the expanding electric vehicles market.
BBB reported earlier this year that China’s largest lithium compounds producer, Ganfeng Lithium, was looking to raise $1 billion from an initial public offering in Hong Kong to expand its battery-related businesses.
And one of China’s largest lithium hydroxide and carbonate producers, Sichuan Yahua Industrial Group, is boosting its investment in Australian lithium producer Core Exploration.