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Johnson Matthey plans “substantial” investment for 2018

Thu, 11/23/2017 - 15:39 -- Xuan Zhong
Johnson Matthey plans “substantial” investment for 2018

UK-based speciality chemicals company Johnson Matthey (JM) plans a “substantial” cash injection to boost battery tech manufacturing in 2018, CEO Robert MacLeod (pictured) has said.

MacLeod did not give details, but said: “Overall we’re on track with our plans and we’re planning a substantial capital investment next year in manufacturing capability.”

MacLeod’s comments came as JM reported revenues of GBP6.5 billion for the six months ended 30 September— a 15% increase over the year-ago period— boosted by higher prices for platinum group metals.

JM said it invested GBP99 million on R&D in the period, including development of its enhanced lithium nickel oxide (eLNO) “high energy battery materials” used in electric vehicles. The company said it had also begun investing in a pilot production plant and launched work “on the front end engineering and design of our commercial scale production plant”.

MacLeod said: “In the last six months, we’ve made some really exciting developments in this space, including the launch of our new, enhanced nickel oxide material, which delivers a step change in performance, and we have our material with customers for testing and validation. The good news is early feedback remains really positive.”

However, JM said sales of its LFP battery materials in its Alternative Powertrain business fell 14% from the year-ago period to GBP65m, “principally due to changes in electric vehicle tax incentives in China which has led to increased substitution of LFP by high energy materials”. The company said these “severely impacted” sales as certain platforms no longer use its LFP materials. But JM said it would continue to develop next generation LFP products and “explore growth opportunities in this market”.

JM unveiled plans just over a year ago to license five patents towards speeding up the adoption of nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) cathode materials in lithium-ion batteries. JM said the deal with US firm 3M would allow it to focus on providing a bigger portfolio of cathode materials for the automotive and high performance markets.

The deal followed JM’s acquisition in 2015 of Switzerland-based Clariant’s lithium-ion battery materials energy storage business for $75 million.