SANTIAGO, Nov 13 (Reuters) - One of Chile-based fertilizer producer SQM’s indirect controllers, Oro Blanco, said late on Thursday that it had hired an investment bank to explore options to sell part or all of its shares in the scandal-racked company.
Holding company Oro Blanco is the majority shareholder in Pampa Calichera, which in turn owns around 20 percent of SQM, the world’s biggest producer of key battery ingredient lithium, as well as an important supplier of iodine and other chemicals.
Authorities are investigating whether SQM
illegally funneled money to finance electoral campaigns.
And in September 2014, Chile’s securities regulator fined former Chairman Julio Ponce $70 million following an investigation into market manipulation linked to SQM and its holding companies.
In a letter sent to the securities regulator on Thursday night, Oro Blanco said it signed with Banco Itau Argentina to “analyze strategic alternatives in relation to its shares in Socieded de Inversions Pampa Calichera and search for third parties that would have interest in said shares.”
Ponce resigned as chairman earlier this year but still owns the stakes he bought in SQM when the company was privatized in the 1980s under his late father-in-law, Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Since Ponce holds his controlling stake in SQM through a complex web of different investment vehicles, Citi said in a research note, “a sale of Oro Blanco’s shares in Pampa Calichera does not cede control to the buyer but seems to be a strong move in that direction.” (Reporting by Gram Slattery; Editing by Anthony Esposito and Lisa Von Ahn)