By Rod Nickel
Nov 29 (Reuters) - Chinese groups have shown “broad interest” in buying Potash Corp of Saskatchewan’s stake in Chilean lithium producer SQM, Potash Corp Chief Executive Jochen Tilk said on Wednesday.
Potash has agreed to divest its 32 percent stake in SQM, as well as minority stakes in ICL Israel Chemicals and Arab Potash Co, to comply with regulators’ concerns in China and India about its merger with Agrium Inc.
“You can imagine the broad interest of potential bidders and actual bidders is coming from those who are interested in lithium as a metal and also producers of batteries or battery parts. And many of them are in China,” Tilk said at a Citi investor conference in New York.
Tilk declined to identify interested parties or the number of bids Potash has received.
Lithium is a key component in building electric vehicles. China is the world’s biggest consumer and producer of lithium products, Tilk said.
Rio Tinto , Canada’s Wealth Minerals Ltd and Chinese private equity firm GSR Capital are considering a bid for the SQM stake, banking sources told Reuters last week.
The Potash-Agrium merger should close by year-end, once the United States Federal Trade Commission grants its approval, Tilk said. (Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Susan Thomas and Phil Berlowitz)