February 11, 2019 / 11:46 PM / in 2 months

Livent's weak outlook for Chinese lithium demand drags on shares

(Reuters) - U.S. lithium producer Livent Corp said on Monday that it expects demand for the white metal to sag in China for the rest of the year, sending its shares down more than 8 percent in after-hours trading.

FILE PHOTO: The company logo for lithium producer Livent Corp is displayed on a screen at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) during the company's IPO in New York, U.S., October 11, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Livent, spun off last year from FMC Corp, also posted a quarterly profit in line with Wall Street’s expectations, with sales at the lower end of the forecast.

The lackluster results and weak outlook for China - the world’s largest lithium consumer - seemed to reinforce concerns about market oversupply for the electric vehicle battery ingredient despite bullish expectations for electric car demand.

Shares fell $1.07, or 8.2 percent, to $12.05 in after-hours trading. At one point the stock was down more than 10 percent.

Chinese customers, Livent said, are “unwilling to make firm commitments for price and volume at levels acceptable to us.” The company said it had sought out customers in South Korea and Japan - large lithium consumers, but not at the same scale as China.

Costs are expected to rise for 2019 while Livent completes an expansion of its Argentina production facilities.

Still, the Philadelphia-based company said it remained confident in the long term.

“The fundamental drivers of demand in our industry continue to be positive,” Livent Chief Executive Paul Graves said in a statement. “We remain confident that Livent will continue to be a leader in the performance lithium compounds industry in the coming years.”

Livent, which produces lithium in Argentina and processes it at several sites around the world, posted net income of $25.9 million, or 18 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $10.9 million, or 9 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

Excluding one-time items, Livent earned 23 cents per share, matching analysts’ expectations, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Livent’s 2018 revenue of $443 million came in at the low end of a forecast $440 million to $450 million.

For 2019, the company expects revenue of $495 million to $525 million.

FMC, which owns about 86 percent of Livent’s shares, said on Monday it plans to distribute its stake to its own shareholders by March.

Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Dan Grebler and Rosalba O'Brien

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