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Tesla in talks to buy Glencore cobalt for Shanghai car plant

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Glencore is negotiating a long-term contract to ship cobalt to Tesla's new electric-vehicle factory in Shanghai, according to people familiar with the matter.

[LODON] Glencore is negotiating a long-term contract to ship cobalt to Tesla's new electric-vehicle factory in Shanghai, according to people familiar with the matter.

A deal would help Tesla avoid a supply squeeze on the key battery metal as it pushes into the world's largest car market, and mark a win for Glencore after a tough spell for its cobalt business.

Executives from both companies hammered out terms of the deal before an official ceremony to mark the first sales from the Shanghai plant earlier this month, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified discussing commercial negotiations. They declined to give details about the size and value of the supply deal.

A Glencore spokesman declined to comment, while a representative for Tesla didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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The contract will help Tesla shore up its cobalt supply as it ramps up output at the so-called Gigafactory, which was built in just 11 months with significant support from the Chinese government. The opening of the plant has helped propel Tesla's shares to record highs, as investors turn bullish on Elon Musk's ambitions of transforming the company into a global mass-market automaker.

While there is enough cobalt supply for now, demand is expected to surge in the coming years as Tesla expands in China and Europe and Volkswagen AG to BMW AG roll out fleets of electric vehicles. Warnings about long-term shortages caused cobalt prices to spike in 2017 and 2018, prompting Mr Musk to work on reducing Tesla's reliance on the metal. Even so, the deal signals that the metal will remain key to the company's expansion over the next few years.

Despite a torrid year for the car industry, the burgeoning electric-vehicle market offers big opportunities for manufacturers and the companies that supply them. The biggest miners are looking to grow production of metals such as copper and nickel that needed for the electrification of cities and cars.

Glencore, the world's largest cobalt miner, is in a prime position to benefit from a boom in electric-vehicle sales. But so far, it's struggled to make that happen. The company booked losses last year related to cobalt after prices collapsed in mid-2018 from too much supply.

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