SANTIAGO, Sept 9 (Reuters) - The sale of a stake in Chile’s SQM, one of the world’s biggest lithium and iodine suppliers, has attracted widely differing offers, with the highest worth up to $2.5 billion, local media reported Friday.
An indirect stake in SQM has been for sale since December, when holding company Oro Blanco invited buyers to make an offer for its entire 88 percent interest in Pampa Calichera.
Pampa Calichera in turn owns about 23 percent of SQM, a major producer of lithium, potash and fertilizer chemicals.
On Thursday, Chinese lithium producer Tianqi said in a statement that it had submitted a non-binding offer for the entire Pampa Calichera stake, without saying how much it had offered.
Chinese battery material company Ningbo Shanshan had also been mulling a bid but said recently that the transaction was too “complex and uncertain.”
Newspaper La Tercera said Oro Blanco, which had a board meeting Thursday to consider the offers, had received two bids from unidentified Chinese companies worth between $2 billion and $2.5 billion.
Separately, newspaper Diario Financiero, citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the process, said that one bidder had offered $35 per share, which would value the stake at around $1.8 billion. But this offer would be dependent on SQM resolving a dispute with the state over royalty payments, it said.
Another bid was worth a much lower $22 per share, without such a condition attached, it said, adding that a third offer had also been received.
The bidding process was ongoing, a source with knowledge of the process told Reuters on Friday, without saying how many offers had been received or their value.
“There is no fixed timetable,” the source said. “A prudent time will be taken to analyze closely each one of the bids ... that could be a couple of months, more or less.”
Others that have been linked to SQM include Canada’s Potash Corp, which already owns a 32 percent stake. Israel’s ICL had previously expressed interest but ruled itself out this week.
SQM did not immediately respond to requests for comment. ($1 = 670.2800 Chilean pesos) (Reporting by Antonio de la Jara, Felipe Iturrieta and Rosalba O‘Brien; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)