OREANDA-NEWS. Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile S.A. (SQM) (NYSE: SQM; Santiago Stock Exchange: SQM-B, SQM-A) reported earnings today for the three months ended March 31, 2016 of US$58.5 million (US$0.22 per ADR), a decrease from US$71.7 million (US$0.27 per ADR) reported for the three months ended March 31, 2015. Gross profit reached US$113.6 million (29.0% of revenues) for the three months ended March 31, 2016, lower than US$130.7 million (33.7% of revenues) reported for the three months ended March 31, 2015. Revenues totaled US$391.8 million for the three months ended March 31, 2016, similar to the US$387.5 million reported for the three months ended March 31, 2015.

SQM’s Chief Executive Officer, Patricio de Solminihac, stated, “During the first quarter of 2016, as anticipated, the downward trend in iodine prices and the weakness in potash prices continued, impacting our margins. Potash sales volumes were higher this quarter compared to the first quarter of last year, which helped to offset the impact on revenues, although adverse weather conditions at the port caused some shipments to be postponed to the second quarter. We believe we are on track to see a recovery in our potash volumes for the full year, returning to levels similar to those reported in 2014. In fact, we expect to see higher sales volumes across all of our business lines for the full year, although margins will continue to reflect lower iodine and potash prices.”

He went on to say, “Pricing in the specialty plant nutrition business has been more stable than potash pricing, and our leading position in the potassium nitrate market has helped us to keep revenues stable in the face of uncertainty in the potash market. The best news of the quarter has been our lithium business, where we saw significant revenue growth. In response to strong global demand for lithium, we are working to deliver more volumes, and prices have also increased.”

“In other lithium news, during the first quarter we were pleased to announce a joint venture with Lithium Americas to develop the Caucharí-Olaroz lithium project in Argentina, which is a great complement to our existing lithium operations in Chile. We are targeting a capacity of 40,000 tons with this joint venture, with production expected to begin by 2019. We believe that our years of experience in this business will contribute to the success of this project, and we should benefit from synergies with our Chilean lithium operations. We are confident that this joint venture will generate value for our shareholders.”