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UPDATE 2-Brazil's Vale, eyeing EV market, mulls base metal spinoff

·2 min read

(Adds details on potential base metals spin-off)

By Gram Slattery and Marta Nogueira

RIO DE JANEIRO, April 27 (Reuters) - Brazilian iron ore miner Vale SA is "closely analyzing" a possible spinoff of its base metals division, Chief Executive Eduardo Bartolomeo said on Tuesday, a move that could help the company take advantage of increasing demand from electric car manufacturers.

The company previously considered spinning off its base metals division in 2014, but delayed the move in 2015, and later abandoned the idea.

"More and more, we're focusing on copper and nickel as key for our participation in the de-carbonization of the economy," said Mark Travers, Vale's director of base metals.

"Clearly, we are going down that path of EV penetration in the auto industry and the inclusion of nickel in the batteries of those vehicles."

The company's base metals division, while dwarfed by its core ferrous minerals division, has experienced significant turmoil over the last year.

In late March, the company concluded the sale of its nickel mining assets on the Pacific island of New Caledonia to a consortium involving commodity trader Trafigura. The mine had been shut since December amid violent protests, after its possible divestment became a matter of political debate.

Meanwhile, the company posted disappointing copper production figures in the first quarter, amid COVID-19 related operational restrictions.

In Tuesday comments, executives said the sale of the financially troubled New Caledonia assets was one-factor in their decision to restart analysis on the base metal spin-off, adding that they considered the division undervalued.

Executives added, however, that the spin-off was still in its conceptual stages, and the company would still need to established how to structure the unit.

Brazil-listed common shares in Vale were up 1% in afternoon trade on Tuesday, outperforming Brazil's benchmark Bovespa equities index, which was down 0.4%.

The company posted its first quarter results on Monday evening, beating the Refinitiv estimate for net income and hitting analysts' margin estimates. (Reporting by Gram Slattery and Marta Nogueira; Additional reporting by Roberto Samora in Sao Paulo; editing by Stephen Eisenhammer, Christian Plumb and Aurora Ellis)