Commodities & Metals

Lithium Americas, Microvast, Romeo Power, Standard Lithium: Dead Batteries?

Last week, BofA Securities reiterated its Underperform rating on lithium products maker Livent Corp. (NYSE: LTHM). A week earlier, the analysts had taken the same action on Albemarle Corp. (NYSE: ALB), citing “significant hype in current equity valuations” and added that “expectations are ahead of the most likely outcomes.”

In both cases, however, BofA lifted its price targets, from $18 to $19 on Livent and from $121 to $140 on Albemarle. Both already trade well above those targets. BofA is not sanguine about the industry’s or either company’s ability to live up to such high expectations: “In the case of [Albemarle] and [Livent] however, we find equity values bake in substantial premiums to what companies can achieve based on their footprints and market growth and reiterate Underperform.”

Supply has been tight recently and, while prices have begun to improve, BofA expects supply to double next year, primarily from Albemarle, Chile-based Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile S.A. (NYSE: SQM) and Canada-based Lithium Americas Corp. (NYSE: LAC), as well as others, primarily in Australia. That does not leave much room for new entrants into the lithium production sector.

Here’s a brief look at Lithium Americas and three more lithium stocks.

Lithium Americas reported second-quarter results almost two weeks ago. The company said it had no revenue and a net loss of $19.3 million ($0.16 per share). A total cash pile of $505.2 million mitigated the damage, and the stock price added about 18% in the following week. This week has been a different story, however, with the shares returning about 80% of the prior week’s gain. As of late morning Wednesday, the shares had added about 8.8% back.

Late last month a federal judge in Nevada ruled that Lithium Americas could begin excavation work at its Thacker Pass mine in Nevada, about 35 miles north of Winnemucca. However, the excavation was approved in order to determine whether the proposed mine site includes about a quarter of an acre of land (of about 18,000) that may be of cultural and religious importance to the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and Atsa koodakuh wyh Nuwu/People of Red Mountain. The judge did not rule on the larger issue of whether the Trump administration erred when it approved the project in early January.

Lithium Americas does not expect to complete construction at Thacker Pass until early next year and does not provide an estimate for when it may begin to realize revenue.

Of 10 brokerages covering the company, eight give the stock a Buy or Strong Buy rating. Based on a median price target of $21.96 and a recent price of around $16.70, the upside potential is about 31%. The stock’s 52-week range is $6.30 to $28.75. The Lithium Americas market cap is $2.02 billion.

Standard Lithium Ltd. (NYSEAMERICAN: SLI) is based in Canada and is focused on developing its  150,000-acre Lanxess Project in the brine region of southern Arkansas. The company has developed a process that its says can “vastly reduce the recovery time of extracting lithium from brine from as long as a year for conventional evaporation pond processing to just several hours. The process may also prove to be much more environmentally friendly with a significantly smaller footprint–compared to the conventional evaporation pond processes.”

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