Lithium is a key ingredient for making batteries that power electric vehicles, smartphones and other devices. As the demand for these products grows, so does the need for lithium. But where does lithium come from and who controls its supply?
One company that has a big stake in the lithium market is Albemarle, a Charlotte, N.C.-based firm that started as a paper mill in 1887. According to a recent article by The Wall Street Journal1, Albemarle is now the world’s most valuable lithium producer, with a stock-market capitalization of almost $23 billion. It is also the third-biggest producer of lithium chemicals used to make lithium-ion batteries.
Albemarle is now the world’s most valuable lithium producer, with a stock-market capitalization of almost $23 billion. It is also the third-biggest producer of lithium chemicals used to make lithium-ion batteries, behind SQM of Chile and China’s Ganfeng Lithium.
All that makes the Charlotte, N.C.-based company, which started off in 1887 as a paper mill, a key cog in a tight global supply chain for battery metals used in electric cars, smartphones and other applications at a time when governments are pushing to electrify their economies.A Onetime Paper Maker Is Now the King of Lithium – WSJ (no paywall)
How did Albemarle transform from a paper maker to a lithium giant? The article traces the company’s history and strategy, which involved acquiring lithium assets in Chile, Australia and Nevada, investing in research and development, and expanding its production capacity. Albemarle also benefited from its long-term contracts with customers such as Tesla and Panasonic, which gave it stability and visibility in a volatile market.
Albemarle’s success has not gone unnoticed by its competitors. The company faces challenges from rival producers such as China’s Ganfeng Lithium and Chile’s SQM, which are also ramping up their output and lowering their costs.
Albemarle’s story shows how a company can reinvent itself and capitalize on emerging opportunities by making smart acquisitions, investing in innovation and building strong relationships with customers. It also illustrates how a onetime paper maker can become the king of lithium.