I’d never suggest you should ignore the numbers–for the fourth quarter lithium and bromine producer Albemarle (ALB) reported earnings of 78 cents a share, 5 cents a share more than Wall Street was expecting.
But the big news the company had to report for the quarter was this: Albemarle finalized its agreement with CORFO, the government agency in Chile that handles access to that country’s minerals, and more than tripled its quota for lithium in that country. Given that Chile’s brine lakes are the world’s low cost source of lithium, this agreement is a huge deal for Albemarle. It gives the company new low-cost supply through 2043 at a time when the use of lithium in electric car (and other rechargeable) batteries is set to soar.
And now back to the numbers.
For the year Albemarle saw 34% growth in adjusted EBITDA for its lithium business unit and 21% for its refining solutions unit. (This business sells catalysts to oil refiners.)
Year to year comparisons for Albemarle were difficult in 2016 because the company continues to delete and add assets as it tries to concentrate on its more specialized operations–such as lithium and refinery catalysts–and shed commodity chemical businesses. For example, in the quarter Albemarle completed the sale of its Chemetall Surface Treatment business to BASF, and aquired lithium assets from Jiangxi Jiangli New Materials Science and Technology. These are lithium mining operations that complement the company’s ownership of spodumene mining assets in Australia. (The company used part of the $3.1 billion it received from the sale of Chemetall to reduce debt.)
Net income from continuing operations in the fourth quarter was just 37 cents a share, down from $1.43 a share in the fourth quarter of 2015. Most of that decrease was due to an increase in tax charges of 55 cents per share and an increase in mark-to-market accounting losses of 35 cents a share. If you exclude the effect of changes in exchange rates, and the effect of divestitures, adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) for the quarter was ahead by 7% from the fourth quarter of 2015.
Albemarle is a recent addition to my long-term 50 Stocks portfolio.