February 19, 2017 / 2:54 PM / a year ago

Chile's SQM sees lithium demand growing 8-10 pct this year - paper

BUENOS AIRES, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Chile’s SQM expects demand for lithium to grow between 8 percent and 10 percent this year and is working to improve financial performance by 2020, an executive told local paper El Mercurio on Sunday.

SQM, one of the world’s biggest producers of lithium and iodine, has been trying to consolidate its position with investments abroad.

In 2020 SQM expects annual earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of $1 billion. Currently quarterly EBITDA is less than $200 million, Gerardo Illanes, vice president of finances, told the newspaper.

“The prices in the lithium market and the growth in demand have been quite relevant in recent years. We expect growth in demand for this product of between 8 and 10 percent,” Illanes said.

SQM plans to invest $100 million to increase its production capacity this year, which combined with its capital injection in Argentina would lead to a total investment of around $300 million, he said.

Illanes said SQM would not have a problem financing its projects although he did not rule out tapping debt markets. (Reporting by Fabián Andrés Cambero; Writing by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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