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UPDATE 1-Albemarle profit beats expectations on rising lithium demand

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(Adds earnings comparison, unit information, stock movement)

May 5 (Reuters) - Albemarle Corp, the world's largest producer of lithium, posted a quarterly profit on Wednesday that easily beat Wall Street's expectations on rising demand from the electric vehicle industry.

The company reported first-quarter net income of $95.7 million, or 84 cents per share, compared with $107.2 million, or $1.01 per share, in the year-ago period.

Excluding one-time items, Albemarle earned $1.10 per share. By that measure, analysts expected earnings of 80 cents per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Shares of the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company have nearly tripled in the past year, closing on Wednesday at $167.15, up 3.1% on the day. The stock was flat in after-hours trading.

Albemarle said the outlook for lithium sales has improved since 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic forced the company to pause expansions and production in some regions. Prices for the white metal should improve for the rest of the year, the company forecast.

Albemarle is in the final stages of two projects to boost its lithium processing and expects to approve further expansion projects by June.

Weakness in Albemarle's division that supplies crude oil refineries offset the surge in sales of lithium during the quarter.

Albemarle plans to discuss the quarterly results on a call with investors on Thursday morning. (Reporting by Ernest Scheyder in Houston Editing by Chris Reese and Matthew Lewis)