Lithium Stock FMC Corp. Jumps 8% Following Q1 Earnings Release

FMC Corp. (NYSE: FMC) stock spiked 8.1% in the two days following its release on Wednesday afternoon of strong first-quarter 2018 financial results. Shares have returned 23.6% for the one-year period through Friday, versus the S&P 500's 13.8% return.

The Philadelphia-based specialty chemical company's revenue soared 103% year over year to $1.21 billion, and it posted earnings per share (EPS) of $1.96, versus a loss of $0.92 in the year-ago quarter. EPS adjusted for one-time factors rocketed 328% to $1.84. Wall Street was looking for adjusted EPS of $1.63 on revenue of $1.15 billion, so FMC beat both expectations.

Moreover, the company raised its full-year 2018 earnings guidance. It now expects adjusted EPS to be in the range of $5.90 to $6.20, an increase of 12% at the midpoint compared to the prior forecast, and 123% higher than its 2017 result.

FMC's lithium business continued to help power growth, thanks to robust demand for the metal to make lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles (EVs). And its agricultural solutions segment got a big boost from the company's purchase in November of a portion of DuPont's (now DowDuPont) crop protection business. Management said on the earnings call that the integration of that acquisition is going very well.

Below are four key things investors should know from FMC Corp.'s Q1 earnings call about its fast-growing lithium business.

1. Lithium business delivered great results again

From CEO Pierre Brondeau's remarks:

FMC realized price increases of about 30% year over year for both lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide, the two lithium compounds used in lithium-ion batteries for EVs. A more favorable product mix and increased sales volumes also contributed to the great results. Volumes increased because of the company's "debottlenecking" at its Argentina plant (where it processes the lithium it extracts from brine at the Salar del Hombre Muerto into downstream products) and new lithium hydroxide production capacity in China.

To put matters in context, however, its necessary to consider that the lithium business accounted for only 8.5% of FMC's total revenue and 12.4% of total segment earnings. So while lithium is contributing more than its fair share to earnings, the company is primarily an agricultural chemicals play. The DuPont acquisition also diluted lithium's relative earnings contribution, which was more than 20% of the total in Q1 2017. Investors who like FMC's primary business and want greater exposure to lithium will soon be able to have their cake and eat it too, after the two businesses separate. (More on that below.)

2. Company raised its 2018 guidance for its lithium business

From Brondeau's remarks:

This one speaks for itself.

3. Management expects lithium prices to rise through 2020

From Brondeau's remarks:

FMC knows for sure that it will realize higher lithium prices this year than last year. And Brandeau also added that, based on the company's long-term contract stipulations and its knowledge of the market, management is "pretty sure" prices will continue to rise through 2020.

4. Its lithium business IPO is on schedule for October

From CFO Paul Graves' remarks:

FMC management previously said that it was targeting autumn for the initial public offering of its lithium business, but investors didn't have a more narrow time frame until now. The IPO will be followed within six months by the spinoff of the remaining shares of the lithium business to FMC Corp. shareholders.

10 stocks we like better than FMCWhen investing geniuses David and Tom Gardner have a stock tip, it can pay to listen. After all, the newsletter they have run for over a decade, Motley Fool Stock Advisor, has quadrupled the market.*

David and Tom just revealed what they believe are the 10 best stocks for investors to buy right now... and FMC wasn't one of them! That's right -- they think these 10 stocks are even better buys.

Click here to learn about these picks!

*Stock Advisor returns as of April 2, 2018

Beth McKenna has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.