SANTIAGO, Sept 16 A media report saying the
Chilean government has opened an investigation into fertilizer
producer SQM could affect the ongoing sale process of
a major stake in the company, analysts said on Friday.
Chilean newspaper La Segunda reported late Thursday that the
Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission (CCHEN) is investigating the
firm, one of the world's largest iodine and lithium suppliers,
for exporting lithium without previous authorization. The report
cited the information as coming from a high-ranking CCHEN source
who declined to be named.
In a statement, SQM responded that it has been in constant
communication with CCHEN and has "submitted all of the required
information requested to prove its compliance" with the
conditions set by regulators.
Analysts said the possible investigation could affect the
sale of a significant stake, owned by SQM's controller Julio
Ponce, who was fined $70 million in 2014 after an investigation
into market manipulation.
"The local press is suggesting that the possible penalty
could be the revocation of the permits that allow SQM to export
lithium," Banchile-Citi said in a note to clients.
The bank said it remained wary about the sale process,
writing that "the underlying fundamentals of SQM's business do
not act a sufficient foundation, in our opinion."
According to local media, SQM has 15 days to respond the
Ponce, SQM's controller, began the process of selling the
bulk of his shares in the company in December. His
holding firm Oro Blanco is looking to sell its majority
stake in Pampa Calichera, which in turn owns around 23
percent of SQM.
Local media reported last week that the stake has attracted
widely differing offers, with the highest worth up to $2.5
SQM's Santiago-listed shares were down 1.2 percent at 1:14
p.m. local time (1614 GMT).
(Reporting by Gram Slattery; Editing by Bernadette Baum)