① The largest fall of nearly 60% since the main futures contract for lithium carbonate futures was listed. The cumulative total market value of Tianqi Lithium and Ganfeng Lithium evaporated to a total of about 400 billion yuan, but the stock price decline in the fourth quarter slowed significantly compared to the decline in lithium prices; ② Over 10 listed companies, including Yahua Group and Salt Lake Co., Ltd., responded intensively to the current business situation and countermeasures this week. ③ Approaching the “circle of life and death” of 100,000, integrated enterprises such as Yongxing Materials and Tianqi Lithium are still profitable.
Financial News Agency, December 2 (Editor Yu Qiping) This year's “one thousand miles” of lithium carbonate has not bottomed out, and prices have plummeted again this week. According to data released by Shanghai Steel Union on November 30, battery-grade lithium carbonate fell 1,200 yuan/ton, with an average price of 132,500 yuan/ton. Meanwhile, lithium carbonate futures successively reached new lows this week. The main lithium carbonate futures contract hit a standstill on Friday, at 101,500 yuan/ton, down 6.97% during the day. Compared with the listing benchmark price of 246,000 yuan/ton, the biggest cumulative drop in just four months was 58%.
As to why lithium carbonate, which is already at a low level, has plummeted again, according to media reports, industry people believe that it is still mainly due to the contradiction between supply and demand. In November, lithium carbonate production increased month-on-month compared to October, while marginal demand weakened, downstream willingness to receive goods was low, and terminal production schedules were lowered. Ping An Futures Research Institute further mentioned that, on the one hand, lithium salt plants that had previously been discontinued or overhauled resumed normal production in early November, domestic lithium carbonate supply is expected to increase, and there is still a possibility that some salt lake companies will release goods in the future; however, downstream companies on the demand side have no idea of picking up goods through loose orders. Recently, they have mainly traded in the form of long orders, and the slump in spot market transactions has also contributed to the continued decline in futures prices.
The huge profits made many companies frantically pile up the lithium carbonate race track. There is already a serious oversupply. According to current price analysis, industry insiders estimate that the global surplus of lithium resources will be roughly 250,000 tons of LCE next year. However, as the price of lithium carbonate declines further, some high-ranking companies entering the market or crossing borders will gradually recede their losses due to cost disadvantages. At that time, the industry will approach the point of balance between supply and demand, and it is expected that the balance point between supply and demand will occur from the end of next year to the following year.
At present, the growth rate of demand is not as fast as the growth rate of supply and volume, and market pessimism dominates the market. Looking ahead to the future market, many institutions believe that the low price of lithium carbonate futures is likely to fall below 100,000 yuan/ton, or even to 80,000 yuan/ton before entering a new upward cycle of the industry.
▌Did the stock price “brake” before the lithium price? The total market value of the A-share lithium mine “Shuangxiong” is high, the cumulative maximum has evaporated to 400 billion dollars, and the “dawn” in the fourth quarter is now gradually slowing down
The price of lithium carbonate naturally affects the stock prices of upstream lithium salt and lithium mining companies. In terms of the performance of the secondary market, the stock prices of related companies “continued to fall” this year. Among the five major manufacturers of lithium products in China, Tianqi Lithium, Shengxin Lithium, Lanke Lithium, Nanshi Lithium, and Ganfeng Lithium, the cumulative stock prices of the listed Tianqi Lithium, Shengxin Lithium, and Ganfeng Lithium were all around 50% during the year. Salt Lake shares held behind Lanke Lithium fell by more than 40% during the year. In addition, the biggest cumulative pullback in stock prices of Yahua Group, Tibet Mining, Rongjie Co., Ltd. and Jiangte Electric during the year also exceeded 50%.
According to calculations, the stock prices of Tianqi Lithium and Ganfeng Lithium, the “two giants” of lithium mining, have been falling for a long time, with a cumulative maximum drop of more than 60% and 70%, respectively, from the highest point in the previous two years. The cumulative maximum evaporation value of the total market value of the two leaders has reached about 400 billion yuan in total.
Standing at the current juncture, when the stock prices of listed companies and the price of lithium carbonate will bottom out have become the focus of general market attention. It is worth mentioning that some market analysis indicates that bottoming out of stock prices will not keep pace with bottoming out lithium prices. Just as lithium prices peaked in November 2022, related individual stock prices peaked exactly one year ahead of schedule. The decline cycle is also the same. Lithium prices are likely to bottom out roughly in the middle or second half of next year, while the stock prices of related companies may stabilize or not fall compared to before.
According to a sorting chart of Tianqi Lithium's stock prices and lithium carbonate price trends compiled by Qiu Zuxue of Minsheng Securities and others in the November 26 research report, it can be seen that since the end of August, compared to the downward trend in lithium carbonate prices, the downward trend in Tianqi Lithium's stock price has eased even more.
At the same time, as can be seen from the stock price performance chart of leading lithium companies sorted out by Li Bin of Huatai Securities and others in the November 3 research report, the stock price declines of Tianqi Lithium, Ganfeng Lithium, Yongxing Materials, and Yahua Group all slowed down compared to the decline in lithium carbonate prices in the fourth quarter, and Tianqi Lithium's performance was even more obvious.
Li Bin and others also pointed out in the research report that, according to the quarterly stock holdings of institutions from 19 to now, such as Ganfeng Lithium, which has increased significantly since 19Q4 (mine cessation indicates the bottom of the boom), reached a phased high point until 20Q4; while the phased low in lithium salt prices was only confirmed in 20Q3, it is clear that institutions started early, and the stock price performance of typical lithium companies also started ahead of price; therefore, it is possible to wait and wait until the latter stages of the downturn in the economy and gradually begin to lay out.
However, some market analysts also confess that no decline does not mean that it will continue to rise sharply. For the entire sector to return to its past glory, a new performance story is needed. Currently, this possibility is very small. It is almost impossible to get back to the top; most companies should be mediocre.
▌When the price of lithium approaches the “circle of life and death” of 100,000 costs, who can “break through”? A number of listed lithium salt and lithium mine companies responded to the impact on business
As the price of lithium carbonate has broken through many price barriers along the way, the spot and futures market prices of lithium carbonate are now infinitely close to 100,000 yuan, especially futures prices. The lowest price of the 2401 contract has fallen to 101,500 yuan/ton on Friday. Some industry analysts have pointed out that futures and spot futures have once again been inverted, breaking the cost line of many lithium mining companies. According to industry judgment, if lithium carbonate falls to 100,000 yuan, about 60% of listed lithium salt companies will face losses, which may trigger another concentrated production cut since April and September.
It is worth noting that, according to incomplete statistics, as of press release, 12 listed companies involving lithium carbonate, including Yahua Group, Tianqi Lithium, Zangge Mining, Tibet Everest, Salt Lake Shares, Yongxing Materials, China Mining Resources, Sichuan Energy, China Salt Lake Shares, Yongxing Materials, China Mining Resources, Sichuan Energy, China Salt Power, China Salt Chemical, Penghui Energy, Everweft Lithium Energy, and Shengyang Co., Ltd. responded to the current business situation and countermeasures on an interactive platform this week. The details are as follows:
With regard to the 100,000 yuan mark that many institutions expect to fall below the 100,000 yuan mark in the later stages, which companies can withstand the stress test and stand out?
According to media reports, judging from the cost trend in 2023, the costs of integrated enterprises such as Salt Lake Co., Ltd., Zangge Mining, Yongxing Materials, and Tianqi Lithium have risen slightly, but the margin of operating safety is still high. Even if the price of lithium falls to 100,000 yuan, profits can still be achieved. Specifically, Yongxing Materials sold 20,000 tons of lithium carbonate in the first three quarters, corresponding net profit of 2.7 billion yuan, and net profit of 130,000 yuan per ton. As China Mining Resources released its own mineral production capacity, the raw material self-sufficiency rate in the first half of the year was around 75%, and the cost per ton was about 95,000 yuan.
For lithium salt companies that rely on external procurement of raw materials, such as Ganfeng Lithium, Yahua Group, and Shengxin Lithium Energy, all or part of the lithium concentrate requires external extraction, plus the fall in Australian ore prices lags behind lithium salt. This year, the cost trend has increased markedly year over year, gross margin has declined markedly, and subsequent operating risks have increased significantly. According to analysis by industry insiders, the mining cost for each lithium carbonate project is not the same. Taking South American salt lakes as an example, the overall cost is about 40,000-50,000 yuan/ton; however, the cost of the lepidolite mine in Jiangxi may be about 150,000 yuan/ton. If the price of lithium carbonate falls to 500,000-60,000 yuan/ton the following year, there is probably no way for the vast majority of projects to continue.
Looking further at the financial data of Ganfeng Lithium, Yahua Group, and Shengxin Lithium Energy, the gross margins of the three companies all fell to new lows below 20% in the first three quarters of this year. In contrast, the gross margin of Tianqi Lithium remained at 86% in the first three quarters. However, as for other high-cost lithium salt companies that do not have mining resources, some industry analysts say that when lithium prices break through the 200,000 yuan price level, they are already unable to resist, and have already switched to proxy processing.
Regarding the current unavoidable topic of how to deal with fluctuations in lithium carbonate prices for listed companies in the industrial chain, some brokerage analysts suggested that relevant companies should establish reasonable inventory management and marketing mechanisms to avoid inventory impairment. Furthermore, since its launch, lithium carbonate futures have provided listed companies in the industrial chain with a good risk avoidance tool. Judging from the current research situation, with the increase in risk awareness in the overall industrial chain, the number of companies using hedging tools is gradually increasing.