Chinese cobalt imports hit by China-Europe arbitrage in 2018; shipments unlikely to revive even after discount narrows

Chinese cobalt metal imports fell dramatically in 2018, with the most significant drop in the second half of the year after the Europe-China price arbitrage negatively affected import appetite in the Asian country.

Only 1,020 tonnes of cobalt metal were shipped to China in the whole of last year, down 63.3% from 2,785 tonnes in 2017, according to data obtained via Fastmarkets sources. Import volumes started to fall sharply in June, coinciding with a rapid widening of arbitrage between Chinese and European markets, which largely dented Chinese buyers’ appetite for the imported metal. In the second half of 2018, only 279 tonnes of cobalt were shipped into China, compared with 771 tonnes during the first half year. Both Chinese domestic cobalt metal and standard-grade cobalt prices have corrected since mid-April after the assessments hit multi-year highs of 675,000-690,000 yuan ($99,463-101,674 including China VAT) per tonne and $43.70-44.45 per lb respectively and ahead of...


Susan Zou

January 25, 2019

14:14 GMT