Tianqi’s top shareholders selling up to 4% stake

Tianqi already controls Greenbushes, the world’s biggest hard-rock lithium mine, located about 250 km from Perth, Australia. (Image courtesy of Tianqi.)

The two largest shareholders in China’s Tianqi Lithium (SHE: 002466) have agreed to sell up to 4% in the company over a six-month period this year, which could raise about $400 million to help the debt-ridden lithium miner.

Controlling investor Chengdu Tianqi Industrial Group, which holds just over 30%, will sell 51.1 million shares, or a 3.5% interest from Jan. 29. It would be the second time in less than a year that Chengdu Tianqi seeks to offload part of its stake in Tianqi, China’s top producer of the battery metal needed for electric vehicles (EVs) and high tech devices.

The company, which last year sold 6% of its shares in Tianqi, will remain the controlling shareholder after the sale, the statement said.

Zhang Jing, wife of Tianqi chairman Jiang Weiping, will offload a 0.5% stake from her current 5.2% stake.

The move will provide the embattled lithium producer much-needed cash to make loan repayments and provide other financial assistance, it said.

Tianqi has been struggling to pay a loan taken out 2018 to partially fund the purchase of a 25% stake in Chilean miner SQM for $4.1 billion.

The acquisition was part of an aggressive global expansion aimed at securing leadership in the lithium market. It succeeded in putting China in a dominant position just as sales of EVs took off, but it came at hefty cost for Tianqi.

The beleaguered Sichuan-based miner closed that deal when lithium carbonate prices were peaking at $17,000 per tonne. They have since plunged around 59% due to a global oversupply of the commodity.

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