China’s Antaike advises govt to stockpile cobalt but buying plans unclear

BEIJING, Aug 20 (Reuters)Chinese state-backed metal research house Antaike said on Thursday it had advised Beijing to stockpile cobalt – a key ingredient in batteries for electric vehicles – but the timing of any state plans to purchase the metal was uncertain.

Citing people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday that China’s National Food and Strategic Reserves Administration had drawn up plans to stockpile 2,000 tonnes of cobalt amid supply disruption in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Global mined cobalt production in 2019 was about 140,000 tonnes, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Antaike analyst Xu Aidong said in a statement the research house had told customers in response to enquiries that it had given the government “suggestions and plans for stockpiling but the exact timing of the stockpiling is unclear”.

Xu, who is also secretary-general of the cobalt branch of China’s nonferrous metals association, said Antaike had made stockpiling suggestions after the coronavirus outbreak lead to a sharp drop in commodities prices.

The National Food and Strategic Reserves Administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

London Metal Exchange cobalt CBD0 is up 13.3% this month at about $33,000 a tonne on fears of disruption in the DRC – where China’s Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt 603799.SS reported coronavirus cases last month – and stockpiling speculation. Still, it remains well below its 2018 peak of about $100,000.

Because of China’s heavy reliance on one country for supply, “whenever the cobalt price is relatively low, Antaike and the cobalt branch will suggest that the government take the initiative to stockpile,” Xu said.

“However, the government has a long decision-making process and slow results.”

The reserves administration stockpiled 5,000 tonnes of refined cobalt in 2015-16, she noted, adding however that cobalt prices fell back to their previous level that time after short-term “excitement” on the market.

(Reporting by Tom Daly and Min Zhang; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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