November 18, 2015 / 2:41 PM / 3 years ago

Lithium producer SQM's profits plummet in third quarter

SANTIAGO, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Chile’s SQM, the world’s biggest lithium producer, reported third-quarter net income plummeted nearly 80 percent from a year earlier, blaming a write-off after halting operations at one mine in September.

The company, also an important producer of agricultural fertilizers, reported net income of $14 million in the quarter ended in September, compared with $66 million a year ago and a Reuters forecast of $46 million.

“The greatest impact on our results during the third quarter was the restructuring of our operating facilities. As announced in September, we are stopping the mining and nitrate operations and reducing our iodine production in Pedro de Valdivia,” said Chief Executive Officer Patricio de Solminihac in a statement late Tuesday.

Like other fertilizer companies, SQM has been battered in recent years by falling prices for potash and iodine, which has been partly offset by strong demand for lithium, a key ingredient of electric car batteries.

The company has also been roiled by a series of financial scandals that have claimed the scalp of its CEO and chairman earlier this year and hurt its shares.

SQM is controlled by a complex web of holding companies, including Oro Blanco, which indirectly holds a stake in SQM, which it is looking to sell.

Canada’s Potash Corp , which already owns around 30 percent of SQM, has expressed interest in increasing its stake in the Chilean firm.

Santiago-listed shares in SQM on Wednesday were down nearly 2 percent, slightly underperforming the wider IPSA index . Since July, the stock has recouped most of its losses from the first half of 2015, when it shed around 30 percent of its value. (Reporting by Rosalba O’Brien; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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