Millennial Lithium Bidding War Reads Well For Peers
On September 8, Millennial Lithium Corp. (TSXV: ML) announced that it received an unsolicited takeover bid from a foreign-based lithium battery production company. The bid is reportedly $0.25 per share superior to the $3.85 all-cash takeover bid it received and accepted in July from China-based Ganfeng Lithium Co., one of the largest lithium producers in the world.
Bloomberg reported on September 14 that the mystery bidder was likely Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Ltd. (CATL), another China battery giant. Millennial has given Ganfeng until September 27 to amend its bid to counter the mystery bidder’s proposal.
The Ganfeng bid for Millennial equates to $377 million in cash. Factoring in Millenium’s net cash position of about $52 million as of February 28, 2021, Millennial’s takeover enterprise value per the Ganfeng bid is about $325 million. Millennium’s principal asset is its flagship Pastos Grandes lithium brine project in Argentina. Lithium, the lightest of all metals, is used extensively in the batteries of electric vehicles.
Millennial’s Pastos facility should begin production in 2024. Its projected battery and technical grade lithium carbonate output is 24,000 tonnes per year (tpy). Ganfeng’s willingness to pay $325 million – and another party at least $25 million more than that — for a project which is not scheduled to commence production for three years is noteworthy.
The bidding war between two very well-capitalized lithium battery producers is clearly a positive for Millennial shareholders. In addition, there are two key read-throughs for other stocks.
More specifically, the purchase price highlights the value of another South American-based lithium producer, Sigma Lithium Corporation (TSXV: SGMA). In June 2021, Sigma broke ground on its Grota do Cirilo hard rock lithium project in Brazil. It is scheduled to begin lithium carbonate production in 4Q 2022.
Its projected Phase 1 output, 33,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent, is 40% larger than Millennial’s target capacity. Phase 2 production could begin in 2023. Sigma’s enterprise value is nearly $650 million, or about twice Millennial’s likely takeout value. Given Sigma’s two-year time advantage to market, that differential may be too small.
Secondly, Ganfeng owns 51% and Lithium Americas Corp. (TSX: LAC) 49% of the Cauchari-Olaroz lithium brine project in Argentina. Cauchari-Olaloz, which has projected stage one output of 40,000 tpy of battery- quality lithium carbonate, is expected to commence production in mid-2022. If the facility operates well, it is certainly possible that Ganfeng (stock market capitalization of around US$38 billion) at some point could decide to buy Lithium Americas’ stake or Lithium Americas itself.
Sigma and Lithium Americas Have Solid Balance Sheets
Both Sigma and Lithium Americas are well capitalized. As of June 30, 2021, the companies have net cash positions of $40 million and $446 million, respectively. Sigma’s enterprise value is $849 million, and Lithium Americas’ is $3.18 billion.
|(in thousands of Canadian $, except for shares outstanding)||Sigma Lithium Corporation||Lithium Americas Corp.|
|Cash – as of 6/30/21||$40,577||$641,250|
|Debt – as of 6/30/21||$531||$195,112|
|Enterprise Value||$849, 364||$3,183,862|
Lithium is a key element in most electric vehicle batteries. If electric vehicle demand were to reverse the trends of the past few years and start to slow, all lithium miners would likely be negatively affected. Also, if engineers at some point can develop a cheaper, more effective option than lithium, lithium producers would likewise be impacted.
A bidding war for Millennial at a rich price for a junior miner which is unlikely to produce lithium carbonate for three years, is a positive for more advanced lithium development companies like Sigma Lithium and Lithium Americas. Equally important, Sigma and Lithium Americas seem to be attractively valued relative to the ultimate takeover price for Millennial Lithium.
Millennial Lithium Corp. last traded at $4.09 on the TSX Venture.
Information for this briefing was found via Sedar and the companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.