(Recasts; adds details, background)
SANTIAGO Dec 15 The sale of an indirect stake
in Chile's SQM, one of the world's biggest producers of lithium
and iodine, has ended without a successful buyer, after the
owner of the stake said offers fell short.
The stake, valued at around $1.5 billion, was put up for
sale around a year ago by Julio Ponce, SQM's former chairman and
one-time son-in-law of ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Ponce put the stake on the block via vehicle Oro Blanco
, which invited buyers to make an offer for its 88
percent interest in Pampa Calichera.
Pampa Calichera in turn owns about 23 percent of SQM
Oro Blanco said on Thursday it had decided not to go ahead
with the sale after no suitable offers were received.
The terms and conditions of the bids received "were not in
the interests of the company or all its shareholders, while one
of the conditions would have been impossible to comply with, so
the board unanimously decided today to not continue with the
process," Oro Blanco said in a statement.
Shares in SQM fell around 7 percent after the announcement,
while Oro Blanco plummeted 26 percent.
A successful sale could have potentially led to the buyer
gaining control of SQM and its lucrative lithium and potash
assets in northern Chile, had Ponce been prepared to sell his
other shares. He currently is part of a controlling group
alongside Japan's Kowa.
Buyers known to be interested in the stake included Chinese
lithium producer Tianqi and Chinese battery material
firm Ningbo Shanshan. Canada's Potash Corp,
which already owns a 32 percent stake in SQM, had also been seen
as a possible bidder.
Local media had reported that one bid had been contingent on
SQM resolving an ongoing dispute with the state over royalty
(Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Dan Grebler)