Lithium producer SQM soars after Chilean election

Quite a good two days for Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile or SQM for short. The Chilean producer of lithium climbed almost 8% yesterday and tacked on another 2.8% today. The shares (SQM) are now up 11.47% since I added them to my long-term 50 Stocks Portfolio back on November 30, 2017.

The correlation with the election victory of Sebastian Pinera is striking. Pinera, a right of center businessman who was president from 2009 to 2013, beat left to center journalist Alejando Guillier in Sunday’s vote. Pinera won 55% of the vote.

Correlation isn’t ever causation but the connection here with the election results is a fairly strong one.

First, Pinera ran on a promise to improve the performance of the Chilean economy. Over the last four years, Chile’s GDP grew by an average 1.8%. When Pinera was last in office, the economy grew by 5.3%.

Second, there’s a more specific connection between the election results and SQM. Pinera also ran on a promise of cutting government red tape and that would seem to be good news for SQM, which is in the midst of negotiations over SQM’s lithium license. On Monday Chile’s development agency CORFO announced that it would suspend the arbitration battle with Pampa Calichera, which controls SQM, for 30 days as the two sides resume negotiations over the royalties that SQM pays to access Chile’s lithium resources. CORFO also noted that Chile would be able to significantly expand its lithium production if negotiations are successful. (The brines of northern Chile and part of Bolivia are the world’s lowest cost source of lithium.) SQM is also in negotiations with the Chilean government over efforts by Canada’s Potash of Saskatchewan (POT) to sell its 32% stake in the company in order to satisfy Indian and Chinese regulators ahead of that company’s merger with Agrium (AGRU.)