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UPDATE 2-Lithium producer Albemarle expects recovery in sales as results top estimates

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·1 min read
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(Adds details on 2021 outlook, background)

Feb 17 (Reuters) - Lithium miner Albemarle Corpreported a better-than-expected quarter on Wednesday aftertaking steps to cut costs to battle lower demand and said itsees higher volumes in the current year.

After the coronavirus dented growth prospects last year,Albemarle and its peers like SQM are now expecting tocash in on surging demand for the battery metal lithium,critical to electric vehicles that have become massively popularamid climate change concerns.

Albemarle has earlier said it looks to double production atits lithium facility in Silver Peak, Nevada, part of a plan toboost supply for the burgeoning electric vehicle market, whileChilean miner SQM has said its current plans to boost itsproduction of lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide by thesecond half of 2021 remained on track.

"Longer-term, we expect lithium demand to grow in line withgreater EV adoption. We are accelerating our lithium growthprojects to capitalize on this trend and generate stronginvestment returns," Albemarle said on Wednesday.

However, Albemarle warned that it expects pricing to be downslightly, and forecast adjusted profit in the range of $3.25 to$3.65 per share for 2021. It earned a profit of $4.12 per sharein 2020.

In the lithium business, the company's largest, sales fell12.8% in the fourth quarter primarily due to lower contract andmarket pricing.

On an adjusted basis, the Charlotte, North Carolina-basedcompany earned $1.17 per share, beating estimates of $1.10 pershare, according to Refinitiv IBES.(Reporting by Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by BernardOrr and Maju Samuel)