February 20, 2019 / 9:38 PM / 6 months ago

Albemarle bullish on lithium outlook after fourth-quarter profit

(Reuters) - Albemarle Corp, the world’s largest lithium producer, posted a higher-than-expected quarterly profit on Wednesday and gave a bullish 2019 outlook, saying it sees nothing that could slow demand for the white metal used to make electric car batteries.

The forecast for sales growth of up to 14 percent this year comes as anxiety grows among some investors that the race to supply lithium for batteries and other materials could flood the market, hurting profits by decreasing prices.

But the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company in a news release said it is “not forecasting any significant macroeconomic headwinds and have not seen any decline in our customer demand forecasts.”

Albemarle said it expects 2019 sales of $3.65 billion to $3.85 billion. Its shares rose 2.6 percent to $85 in after-hours trading.

The company reported fourth-quarter net income of $129.6 million, or $1.21 per share, compared to a net loss of $218.4 million, or $1.95 per share, in the year-ago quarter.

Excluding one-time items, Albemarle earned $1.53 per share. Analysts expected earnings of $1.47 per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Lithium sales rose 18 percent to $341.6 million during the quarter on both higher volume and prices that were up 4 percent from a year ago, the company said.

Lithium is Albemarle’s largest segment, with two smaller units selling industrial chemicals.

Albemarle is expected to discuss its financial performance and outlook during a conference call with analysts on Thursday morning.

Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Leslie Adler and Bill Berkrot

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