Wall Street Looks Quite Positive on Livent's Lithium Opportunity

Livent Corp. (NYSE: LTHM) came public during a tough time for the stock market and for initial public offerings. Now its research quiet period has been lifted, and Wall Street analysts are mostly positive on the stock and see upside ahead.

The lithium producer’s initial public offering (IPO) opened at roughly $16.25 in October’s debut, under the official IPO price of $17 per share. To make matters worse, the expected price range for the IPO was supposed to be $18 to $20 per share.

Livent sold 20 million shares, with gross proceeds before underwriting fees and commissions of $340 million. As a reminder, Livent was spun out of FMC Corp. (NYSE: FMC) to unlock the lithium and electric vehicle play from its broader chemicals strategy.

The group of underwriters in the syndicate included several of the large firms, and most of the research reports have now been seen. Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse were listed as the joint lead bookrunners for the offering, and co-managers included Citigroup, Loop Capital Markets and Nomura.

Credit Suisse issued a Buy rating and $20 target price. The firm noted that Livent’s story is integral to future development of both the lithium and the global battery electric vehicle markets. Its view is that the company is poised to remain a market leader in both technology and cost, with its largest differentiation point as the focus on battery-grade LiOH versus carbonate. And lastly, despite new supply announcements from competitors, Credit Suisse views Livent’s model as relatively insulated.

Meanwhile, Credit Suisse also reinstated coverage of FMC with an Outperform rating and $103 price target. The firm noted that FMC currently presents the best long-term value opportunity in agricultural markets today, and while investor sentiment is cautious in the crop protection space, FMC has the ability to drive continued top-line growth and modest margin expansion. The new target price does reflect the majority stake in Livent.

Other key analyst calls for Livent’s upside were seen as follows:

  • Merrill Lynch started it as Buy and issued a $20 price objective.
  • Citigroup has a Buy rating and $20 target price.
  • Goldman Sachs has a new Buy rating and $22 target.
  • Instinet’s rating is Buy, with a $20 price target.

Seaport Global, which was not in Livent’s underwriting syndicate and therefore not barred from issuing a report earlier, started Livent with a Buy rating and with a $19 price target back on October 30. Shares had closed previously at $15.20.

Morningstar also issued a Hold rating with an $18 fair value estimate on October 22. The firm noted that FMC retained an 84.25% equity ownership in Livent after the spin-off but plans to sell its remaining stake as early as 2019. It also noted that Livent’s lithium carbonate production in Argentina is among the world’s lowest-cost lithium sources.

Livent’s shares hardly reacted to the analysts’ upside. Its stock was last seen at $16.98, after having closed at $16.86 the prior day. Its post-IPO range is $14.00 to $17.30.

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