In 2024, lithium resources will enter a pattern of oversupply, and some lepidolite and African spodumene projects that are in marginal cost positions may face the possibility of being sold out.
The Zhitong Finance App learned that Guolian Securities released a research report saying that the supply side of global lithium resources continues to release. The estimated global supply of lithium resources in 2023-25 is 105.5/149.0/1.87 million tons of LCE, respectively, and global demand is about 103.3/131.4/1.64 million tons of LCE. Oversupply has increased, and the lithium price center has moved downward. The bank believes that lithium resources will enter an oversupply pattern in 2024, and that some lepidolite and African spodumene projects, which are in marginal cost positions, may face the possibility of being sold out. Combining the supply and demand balance table with the production cost curve, the bank expects the lithium price to bottom out at 80,000 to 90,000 yuan/ton; the industry's supply and demand are expected to balance, and the cost side is supported.
The main views of Guolian Securities are as follows:
Continued release of global lithium resources on the supply side
Global lithium resources are mainly distributed in the South American lithium triangle, the United States, Australia, and China. According to USGS, global lithium resource reserves in 2022 were 26 million tons of metal (equivalent to about 138 million tons of lithium carbonate equivalent); of these, Chile/Australia/Argentina/China accounted for 36%/24%/10%/8%, respectively. There are large differences in resource endowments among regions around the world, and there are few resources that are both high-quality, large-scale, and easy to develop. Currently, most of the global lithium resource projects to be developed are in the early exploration stage; in the short term, the increase in global lithium resource supply is mainly contributed by lithium mines in Western Australia, salt lakes in South America, lepidolite in China, and spodumene projects in Africa. The bank expects the global supply of lithium resources from 2023-2025 to be 105.5/149.0/1.87 million tons of LCE, respectively.
The global demand side of lithium resources is expected to maintain rapid growth
The downstream of lithium mainly includes lithium batteries, ceramics and glass, grease, etc. According to USGS, batteries/ceramics and glass/grease/casting flux/air treatment/pharmaceutical/other fields accounted for 80%/7%/4%/2%/1%/5% of global lithium downstream applications in 2022, respectively. The bank expects global lithium resource demand for 2023-2025 to be about 103.3/131.4/1.64 million tons of LCE, of which the lithium resource requirements for power batteries/energy storage batteries/3C and small power batteries are 55.0/69.4/868,000 tons of LCE, 13.1/21.5/311,000 tons of LCE, and 6.3/73/80,000 tons of LCE, respectively.
The extent of oversupply has increased, and the lithium price center has moved downward
As of 2023/11/30, the average domestic battery-grade/industrial-grade lithium carbonate spot price was 1370/127 million yuan/ton, respectively, a year-on-year decrease of 75.86%/76.55%; the average spot price of lithium hydroxide was 126,500 yuan/ton, a year-on-year decrease of 77.35%. In 2024, lithium resources will enter a pattern of oversupply, and some lepidolite and African spodumene projects that are in marginal cost positions may face the possibility of being sold out. Combining the supply and demand balance table with the production cost curve, the bank expects the lithium price to bottom out at 80,000 to 90,000 yuan/ton; the industry's supply and demand are expected to balance, and the cost side is supported.
The increase in the penetration rate of new energy vehicles and the increase in the installed capacity of lithium batteries for energy storage are the main driving forces of lithium resource demand, and global demand for lithium resources is expected to continue to grow rapidly. Due to the long development period of lithium resource projects, it takes 7-10 years from exploration and development to commissioning. Lithium resources are still the core strategic asset of the NEV and energy storage industry chain. Currently, lithium prices continue to bottom, and the valuation of the lithium sector is at the bottom of history; the self-sufficiency rate of lithium resources is high, and the investment cost performance ratio of companies with advantages on the cost side is prominent. It is recommended to focus on: Tianqi Lithium (002466.SZ), Ganfeng Lithium (002460.SZ), China Mining Resources (002738.SZ), and Yongxing Materials (002756.SZ).
Risk warning: the penetration rate of new energy vehicles fell short of expectations; environmental protection and production safety risks; exchange rate fluctuation risks; geopolitical and anti-globalization risks.