Electric vehicles and the energy transition more broadly depend on a host of raw materials beyond the commonly known metals like lithium and copper. Rare earths — a group of 17 metallic elements — are key for EVs, and BMO Capital Markets said miner MP Materials should be on investors’ radars given the company’s focus on this little known but key market. The firm initiated coverage on the company with an outperform rating on Tuesday, saying the company is a pure-play with high-quality assets at a time when there are few alternatives. “We expect MP to benefit from persistent tightness and robust pricing for magnet rare earth products fueled by the energy transition (EVs, wind turbines, etc.),” the firm wrote in a note to clients. “We see attractive risk-reward currently as MP expands downstream for long-term growth and Chinese supply chain circumvention. We think MP can overcome non-trivial technical hurdles ahead given its strong balance sheet and government/auto-OEM support,” analysts led by Robin Fiedler added. Las Vegas, Nevada-based MP Materials operates the Mountain Pass Mine in California — the only rare earths mining and processing site in the U.S. BMO said the mine is a low-cost asset with a favorable rare earths distribution mix. Additionally, the firm said the mine has 35 years of productivity, offering “further upside potential.” The company has a roughly 15% global market share in upstream rare earths production, according to BMO. The firm also pointed to government support as an upside catalyst for the company. The Biden Administration has noted the importance of securing domestic supply chains for key battery materials. In March the White House invoked the Defense Production Act for EV battery materials. “It is the policy of my Administration that ensuring a robust, resilient, sustainable, and environmentally responsible domestic industrial base to meet the requirements of the clean energy economy, such as the production of large-capacity batteries, is essential to our national security and the development and preservation of domestic critical infrastructure,” a March 31 statement from the White House said. Prices for raw materials have shot up in recent months thanks to robust demand and constrained supply. Lithium, for instance, has gained more than 700% since January 2021, according to the International Energy Agency. Bringing new mines online is capital intensive and can take years. Projects can also face opposition due to the impact on local communities and ecosystems. With this in mind, BMO said that MP Materials should “benefit from persistent tightness and robust pricing.” The firm has a $50 target on the stock, which is 27% above where shares closed Tuesday. The stock traded flat on Wednesday, and is down roughly 13% for 2022. – CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed reporting.
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