May 15, 2019 / 5:17 PM / a month ago

Lithium Americas names new CEO, quarterly loss shrinks

(Reuters) - Lithium Americas Corp, which is developing lithium projects in Argentina and Nevada, said on Wednesday that its quarterly loss shrank as costs fell and sales rose, and that its chief executive would retire.

The company is one of a handful of junior miners around the world working to develop mines for lithium, a key metal used to make electric vehicle batteries.

The Vancouver-based company said CEO Tom Hodgson is retiring effective immediately and will be replaced by Jonathan Evans, who has been the company’s president and chief operating officer since last September.

Hodgson, 67, plans to leave the board but stay on as a consultant, the company said in a statement. Evans will take Hodgson’s place on the board.

Evans testified before the U.S. Congress on Tuesday about pending legislation designed to create a national electric vehicle supply chain policy.

“I’m excited about our future and the assets we have,” Evans, 49, told Reuters.

Separately, the company said on Wednesday it is seeking partners or other financing options for its Thacker Pass lithium project in Nevada. That would follow a similar model to what the company is doing with its Argentina project, which counts China’s Ganfeng Lithium Co as an equal joint venture partner.

Lithium Americas posted a first-quarter net loss of $4.5 million, compared with $4.6 million in the year-ago period. A per-share figure was not immediately available.

Excluding one-time items, the company lost 6 cents per share. By that measure, analysts expected a loss of 9 cents per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Sales rose 17 percent and cost of sales fell 12 percent, with $36.2 million in cash on hand at the end of March.

The company spent more than $45 million in the quarter to help develop the Cauchari-Olaroz project in Argentina with Ganfeng. Production is slated to begin next year.

Lithium Americas said it expects to submit permit applications for Nevada’s Thacker Pass project to U.S. officials later this year.

Shares fell 4 percent to C$4.58 in early afternoon trading on Wednesday. The stock has lost about 4 percent for the year.

Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Susan Thomas

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