Great Wall Invests in Australian Miner Amid Electric Push

Great Wall Motor Co. will invest in a lithium-mining company in Australia, the latest example of Chinese automakers seeking control of raw materials as they accelerate development of electric vehicles.

China’s biggest maker of sport utility vehicles will invest A$28 million ($22 million) for as much as a 3.5 percent stake in Pilbara Minerals, which owns the Pilgangoora lithium-tantalum project in Western Australia, Great Wall said in statements to the Hong Kong stock exchange Friday. The company halted trading of its shares in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Great Wall joins BYD Co., China’s biggest maker of new-energy vehicles, in attempting to secure supplies of resources such as lithium and cobalt for electric-car batteries as costs rise with demand. Development of electric cars has gained urgency as China, the world’s largest auto market, said this month that it was working on a timetable to phase out vehicles powered by fossil fuels, joining nations including France and the U.K.

Baoding-based Great Wall plans to roll out a separate brand for its electric-vehicle offerings, in addition to existing gasoline-powered models under the Harval and WEY brands, Chairman Wei Jianjun said this month.

In March, BYD said it planned to invest 500 million yuan ($75 million) partnering with a local miner in the western Chinese province of Qinghai to explore lithium. The Shenzhen-based company is also talking to some state-owned companies to team up on cobalt exploring as part of its efforts to expand in the upper stream of the industry chain, Chairman Wang Chuanfu said earlier this month.

Shares of Great Wall last fell 0.9 percent to HK$9.60 in Hong Kong on Thursday before they were halted from trading. The stock in Shanghai slipped 0.8 percent to 12.26 yuan the same day.

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