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Livent posts Q1 loss on weak prices, lower volume

May 11 (Reuters) - Lithium producer Livent Corp reported a quarterly loss on Monday, hit by weak prices of the metal used in rechargeable batteries and lower volume amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

The lithium industry is beginning to feel the pain of sliding automobile sales and the economic malaise caused by the COVID-19 respiratory disease. Albermale, the world's largest lithium producer, cut its 2020 budget and pulled its annual forecast.

Livent said it expects near-term demand to be hit by production stoppages at manufacturing facilities, even though it had not seen any evidence of automotive original equipment manufacturers pulling back from their plans to produce more electric vehicles.

The company also added that industry-wide output cuts as well as delays or cancellations of capacity expansion projects would help tighten the demand-supply balance once electric vehicle production starts to accelerate.

Demand for lithium, a vital ingredient in batteries that power electric vehicles, has plunged in the past two months in China and elsewhere as the coronavirus outbreak has all but halted global industry.

The company reported a net loss of $1.9 million, or 1 cent per share, for the first quarter ended March 31, compared with a profit of $16.9 million, or 12 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, it posted a profit of 2 cents per share, missing average analyst estimate of 4 cents per share, according to Refinitiv IBES.

Livent, which operates manufacturing sites in the United States, England, India, China and Argentina, said revenue fell 30% to $68.5 million compared with a year earlier. (Reporting by Arunima Kumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)