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...the trend [from Lithium Carbonate to Lithium Hydroxide] has increased the competitiveness of Australian hard rock lithium miners at the expense of their South American rivals, which typically extract lithium from briny water.


Processing facilities to convert lithium-bearing rock into lithium hydroxide are starting to pop up along the West Australian coast, with China's Tianqi building one at Kwinana, Albemarle building one near Bunbury and Mineral Resources planning one for the Pilbara.


Kidman and SQM have secured land for their own hydroxide plant at Kwinana, the industrial precinct south of Perth where Wesfarmers produces fertiliser products, and which was described by CEO Rob Scott this week as "our own backyard".


''We just see this as the next step in the development and evolution of our chemicals business," he said. ''We have a lot of experience with the Kwinana industrial area, be it through approvals, construction, management of employees and contractors, all those sorts of things that take place in a complex industrial environment, which a company like SQM coming from South America hasn't got that local knowledge.''



- sounds like a cluster to me


...The big question is whether the Perth conglomerate has the financial firepower to continue its buying spree if both the Kidman and Lynas deals go ahead, particularly given the Kidman deal comes with a requirement to spend $600 million on the hydroxide plant within the next three years....
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Yeah, fair point, I was not aware that there was so much promised action in WA.


But $600m? The Orocobre LiOH plant to be built in Japan has a US$91m price tag. The Kidman plant might just be intended to have a much higher production rate but also Orocobre will be feeding 99% pure lithium carbonate into its LiOH plant whereas I think the hard rockers' product is about 6% pure which may require much more processing to get to LiOH.

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I've seen spodumene {LiAl(SiO3)2 } found in lithium rich pegmatites "boasting" Li at 1.5% for some of the WA deposits (when ppm is used, you know it's not exactly dominant). The 6% number I understood to be the first go at concentration (decrepitation) prior to shipping off to refining - LiOH or carbonate. And metallurgy is hardly ever a standardised off-the-shelf process; each resource has its own mineralogy, and then it can be different across the deposit.


The sheer volume needing to be shipped cries out for concentration as close to the mine as possible, I would have thought.


SQM is one of the four dominant players in the lithium market, so this is good for WES. Others are Talison, Germany's Chemetall and FMC (USA)

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Bunnings has more online visitors than any other Australian bricks-and-mortar retailer âââہ¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã¢â‚¬Å“ despite the fact it doesn't sell most of its products online âââہ¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã¢â‚¬Å“ and is the third most visited website after eBay and Amazon.


Bunnings.com.au had 40 million visitors in the March quarter, according to data from online savings platform Cuponation, compared with 32 million for Woolworths, 29 million at JB Hi-Fi, 21 million at Coles, 21 million at Kmart and 20 million at Kogan.com.


In a similar survey last year, JB Hi-Fi was the most visited Australian site, with 74 million visitors between January and June 2018 compared with 69 million for Bunnings


- of course, eBay and Amazon are miles ahead...

Despite heavy investment by major retailers to improve their e-commerce ranges, prices and delivery speeds, the large US online marketplaces continue to dominate online retailing in Australia.


EBay.com.au remains Australia's most popular shopping site, with 194.9 million visitors in the March quarter (36 million Australians also visited eBay's US site), compared with 58 million for Amazon.com and 35.5 million for Amazon's Australian site.


The data includes all visitors, not unique visitors, to the retailers' desktop and mobile sites and was collated using SimilarWeb and Alexa tools.

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Bunnings click and collect trialled in Hobart and ready to be rolled out nationwide

For now plants and timber are not available to be ordered for click-and-collect as, in both cases, customers prefer to personally Ãâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚­inspect, touch and see the goods, while hazardous materials âââہ¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚ such as chemicals âââہ¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚ are also not on the site as yet.


The pilot trial is already delivering a strong uplift in sales as the size of orders placed online is on average larger than the typical basket size of purchases made by walk-in customers. And some categories are proving more popular than others.


âââہ¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…âہ“We have learned that cusÃâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚­tomers shop in categories right across the store, but some categories are emerging to be more popular, especially relating to a specific project âââہ¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚ such as storage or fixing stuff like door handles, those kind of projects,âââہ¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’‚ Mr Schneider said.


âââہ¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…âہ“It is varied but what is quite clear is that customers are buying project-based quantities, so they are quite solid basket sizes compared to normal. So a simple project on the weekend might be to update a bedroom, door knobs and handles. A customer might be looking for 20 or 30 door handles, and they will make that purchase online because they can do the whole project in one go, rather than come in on the weekend and top up a few items.


âââہ¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…âہ“The basket size has been bigger, for average transactions, and that is what we have seen with our overseas peers"....

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Wesfarmers Limited today announced that it has entered into an agreement to acquire Australian online retailer Catch Group Holdings Limited for cash consideration of $230 million.


Catch Group is an established, profitable and cash-generative business that operates an online business model offering branded products on a first-party basis and a third-party online marketplace. Its online operations are supported by two fulfilment centres located in Victoria.


Wesfarmers Managing Director Rob Scott said the acquisition is consistent with Wesfarmersâââہ¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¾Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¢disciplined approach to capital allocation, including investment in opportunities adjacent to its existing businesses. It is also consistent with the Groupâââہ¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¾Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¢s focus on investing in and building its data and digital capabilities.

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Preparing to hold its investor day this morning Wesfarmers issued a trading update which revealed that conditions had worsened since the new year and would crunch pretax profits for the two stores.


The recent poor performance is especially a stark switch for Kmart, which for the last four years had been one of the strongest profit drivers for Wesfarmers under its former boss Guy Russo but which is now proving a drag on group profitability.


In a trading update this morning total sales growth for Kmart has almost halved from January to June while like for like sales growth has retreated from barely positive to a decline..

- WES is down 4+% after yesterday's 'record high' (adjusted for Coles split).


Retail is looking messy, across the country. Too many options, and on-line eating into physical stores. Whether RBA action " saves " the consumer is moot!

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  • 1 month later...
Wesfarmers has received a green light from the competition regulator to acquire one of Australia's oldest and largest online retailers, Catch Group, for $230 million.


Wesfarmers chief executive Rob Scott considered launching a multi-brand online retail platform similar to Catch Group to leverage the group's retail businesses, which include Kmart, Target, Officeworks and Bunnings, and better compete with Amazon and eBay.


However, the Perth-based conglomerate decided it would be faster and more cost effective to buy an established online retailer and approached Catch Group's founders, Gabby and Hezi Leibovich, earlier this year.


The $230 million deal, which was announced in June, will enable Wesfarmers to build Kmart and Target's online sales, which are currently less than 3 per cent of total sales, while tapping Catch Group's expertise in e-commerce, online fulfilment and digital marketing.

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  • 4 weeks later...
The first Wesfarmers profit result without the inclusion of supermarket chain Coles Group has given a taste of what might happen if chief executive Rob Scott were to get all six operating businesses firing at the same time.


Long-standing shareholders in Wesfarmers will be aware that over the past decade the better performing parts of the Perth-based conglomerate have helped prop up the poorer performing parts. This was the case again in the year ended June 30 2019 as the discount department stores, Kmart and Target, and the industrial and safety business had declines in profitability.


Yet again the profit engine was hardware chain Bunnings, which lifted earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) 8.1 per cent to $1.6 billion. Officeworks lifted profit 7.1 per cent to $167 million, and the chemicals, energy and fertilisers business stood out with a 14 per cent rise in EBIT to $433 million

The poor performance in the department stores, a division called the Kmart Group, is no surprise. Wesfarmers has never been willing to bite the bullet on the Target albatross. Instead of shutting it down and taking its medicine several years ago, it has stuck with a failed business model. ...


In financial 2019, Kmart Group's earnings before interest and tax fell 13.7 per cent to $540 million; its EBIT margin fell to 6.3 per cent from 7.4 per cent. The company said Targetâââہ¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¾Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¢s âââہ¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…âہ“customer value proposition is yet to resonate with customers in a sustainable wayâââہ¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’‚ÂÂ. That statement could have been made five years ago and then every year thereafter.

Scott said the performance in the industrial and safety division was disappointing. Its EBIT plunged 27 per cent to $86 million. The problem within industrial and safety was Blackwoods, which needs to complete the installation of a new enterprise resource planning system to deliver sustainable earnings growth.


But Scott was bullish about the future of the conglomerate. He said the spin-off of the Coles Group had repositioned the portfolio for sustainable growth and strengthened the balance sheet.


Shares in Wesfarmers have outperformed the market since Scott took over as CEO from Richard Goyder in November 2017. It is possible the company will fire on all six cylinders but it will require the successful implementation of the new software systems at Blackwoods and continued momentum in retail sales at Kmart Group.


The conglomerate structure remains resilient in the face of uncertain economic times. Wesfarmers is one of the strongest free cash flow generators in Australia. In the year to June cash flow totalled $2.96 billion


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  • 2 weeks later...
Believe it or not, Wesfarmers now has a lithium division.


With 95 per cent of Kidman Resources shares (but only 79 per cent of Kidman Resources shareholders) being supportive of the retail conglomorate's $1.90 takeover offer, all that stands in the way is court approval.

... and I hope this isn't a Magnum Copper

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