Reporter Zhao Binbin and He Wang Juan

On April 4, according to data released by Shanghai Steel Union, the price of battery-grade lithium carbonate fell by 13,4000 yuan per ton, and the average price was 19,5 yuan / ton. This also means that in less than half a year, the market price of battery-grade lithium carbonate fell from nearly 60,20 yuan per ton to 60,<> yuan, a drop of more than <>%.

A number of industry insiders interviewed by the "Securities Daily" reporter predict that as lithium prices continue to fall, lithium mining companies will usher in a reshuffle, some small and medium-sized mining enterprises will withdraw from the market, and the industry concentration will be further increased in the future. From the perspective of the industrial chain, the phenomenon of downstream enterprises working for upstream will be reversed, and the profits of the industrial chain will be redistributed.

Lithium prices fell more than expected

The price of lithium carbonate, which soared all the way last year, suddenly opened the "diving" mode in 2023, falling below the price support threshold believed by the market again and again, and even lost the 4,13 yuan / ton mark on April 20.

It is worth mentioning that in February this year, when the price of battery-grade lithium carbonate was still 2,44 yuan / ton, CATL launched the "lithium mine rebate" plan to downstream car companies such as ideal, NIO, Cialis, and Extreme Krypton, and part of the power batteries of CATL in the next three years will be settled at a lithium carbonate price of 20,<> yuan / ton, and the agreement will be implemented from the third quarter of this year.

The above rebate price is an anchor price thrown to the market by the Ningde era, and was also considered to be the price support of lithium carbonate.

However, in less than two months, the market price has fallen below this anchor point.

Some insiders said that although the industry has reached a consensus on global lithium overcapacity in 2023, it was widely expected that the price would fall back to 30,40 yuan to <>,<> yuan per ton. At present, the actual lithium price decline far exceeds everyone's expectations.

For the reasons for the unexpected decline in lithium prices, Xie Zheng, senior investment consultant of Jufeng Investment Advisory, told the "Securities Daily" reporter: "The main reason is the significant expansion of production capacity and inventory in the midstream of the industrial chain in the early stage, once the growth rate of terminal demand slows down, all links of the industrial chain will scramble to clean up inventory, resulting in a phased oversupply of the lithium market." ”

SMM analyst Yuan Ye believes that affected by the price of battery materials reaching a historical high, the growth rate of domestic new energy vehicle market demand has slowed down significantly. Battery cell companies and car companies have reserved a large number of battery cells and vehicle inventory, demand is less than expected, the demand for battery cells at the end of car companies is gradually weakening, cell procurement reduction, delayed delivery of goods from time to time, and gradually transmitted to the upstream of the industrial chain, promoting the price of lithium salt from rising to falling.

When to stop falling?

Lithium prices are falling endlessly, and the first is lithium extraction companies. A mica lithium extraction company in Yichun, Jiangxi Province, recently replied to the media, saying, "Due to the decrease in downstream demand and the increase in the company's inventory, some production lines have been stopped for dynamic adjustment." ”

This is not an isolated case. The person in charge of a small lithium mine calcination plant in Gao'an, Yichun, said that its calcination plant stopped work in February this year, and the resumption time is uncertain. "The shutdown is mainly affected by environmental protection rectification and the collapse of lithium mine prices, but even if it starts, it will not be profitable." The person in charge said.

Previously, due to the soaring price of lithium, downstream battery companies and vehicle companies once shouted that they were working for the upstream slogan. As lithium prices fall, industrial chain profits are expected to be redistributed.

However, some insiders said: "The price collapse is the same as the skyrocketing, and the damage to the industrial chain is relatively large." The best state is that lithium price fluctuations are relatively stable, and profits can be more reasonably distributed in all links of the industrial chain. ”

When the price of lithium carbonate stops falling has become the focus of current market attention. In the context of high inventory in the industrial chain, many industry insiders interviewed believe that it is difficult to be optimistic that the price of lithium carbonate will stop falling and rise in the short term.

Qu Yinfei, a lithium analyst at Shanghai Steel Union New Energy Division, told the "Securities Daily" reporter: "The current market demand lacks rebound momentum, and the market will continue to have strong supply and weak demand under the condition that the recovery cycle of terminal and downstream market demand is not clear." ”

"In the short term, the current demand for lithium miners can only reduce part of the inventory, but it is still not enough to solve the overall oversupply problem." Xie Logistics believes that the subsequent stabilization and decline of lithium carbonate prices mainly depends on the recovery of the new energy vehicle market.

In March this year, sales of new energy vehicles increased under the price reduction promotions of major automakers. According to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, sales of new energy vehicles in China reached 3,2023 units in March 3, up 65% month-on-month and 3% year-on-year.

"The current performance of the industrial chain is more pessimistic, but it is worth noting that after the second round of large-scale inventory reduction in the industrial chain in April, the inventory level of intermediate links dominated by battery cells and four main materials may fall to a low level." Yuan Ye said that after the inventory of terminal car companies is effectively digested, the growth of downstream demand will achieve a relatively rapid upward transmission.

The market is gradually returning to rationality

With the rapid decline in the price of lithium carbonate, Xie believes that this will bring greater pressure on the performance of lithium mining companies, and the era of high growth has passed.

It is worth mentioning that last year, benefiting from the "soaring all the way" of lithium prices, the performance of many lithium mine listed companies hit a record high, for example, Tianqi Lithium achieved a net profit of 2022.241 billion yuan in 25, a year-on-year increase of 10.6 times; Ganfeng Lithium made a net profit of 2022.205 billion yuan in 3, a year-on-year increase of nearly 2022 times; Rongjie Co., Ltd. made a net profit of 24.4 billion yuan in 34, a year-on-year increase of 72.<> times.

At the China Electric Vehicle 3 People Forum held a few days ago, Wang Yu, chairman of Funeng Technology, also said, "The actual cost of lithium carbonate should be 50,60 yuan / ton, and there is no reason to rise to 10,<> yuan / ton to <>,<> yuan / ton." Wang Yu said that many automakers will no longer be able to take money to lose money this year, and if the price of lithium battery materials does not meet expectations, it may reduce production. In Wang Yu's view, it is expected that the price of lithium carbonate will decline rapidly, or drop below <>,<> yuan / ton.

A few days ago, the electrolyte head company Xinzhoubang released a performance forecast, and it is expected that the net profit in the first quarter of 2023 will be 2 million yuan to 15 million yuan, down 2.65% to 48.2% year-on-year. The reason for the decline in performance was mainly due to the lower than expected shipments of battery chemicals, coupled with the impact of changes in the supply and demand relationship of the new energy vehicle industry chain, sales prices fell sharply year-on-year, and sales declined. It is reported that the core raw material of the electrolyte is lithium hexafluorophosphate, and in the cost composition of the latter, lithium carbonate occupies the lion's share. At present, the price of lithium hexafluorophosphate has fallen by 57% from last year's high. Xinzhoubang said that when the price stabilizes depends on the market situation of lithium carbonate.

Market participants believe that the sharp decline in the price of lithium carbonate is actually a return to the price, and all links of the industrial chain should return to a reasonable profit range through changes in the market.

Qu Yinfei also believes that in the long run, the price of lithium carbonate returning to a reasonable range will help the healthy development of the lithium battery industry and will also accelerate the reshuffle of the industry. (Securities Daily)