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Tesla EV-Battery Partner Saw Insiders Buy Up Stock

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A lithium battery. Piedmont Lithium insiders bought up stock as the year was coming to a close.
Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Piedmont Lithium stock doubled in 2021, and even as the year was closing, two insiders at the miner of metals for electric-vehicle batteries bought up shares.

Piedmont stock (ticker: PLL) ended last year with a 98% gain, compared with a 27% rise in the S&P 500 index. Despite the outperformance, shares ended 2021 at $52.46, far below a 52-week intraday high of $88.97, set in March.

The company got a lift, along with all areas of the EV sector, from the Biden administration’s push for EVs. It represents an opportunity for a U.S. source of lithium, as opposed to China, and is exploring the Piedmont region of North Carolina. The company has a deal to supply  Tesla (TLSA) with lithium once a mine is in operation.Bruce Czachor, executive vice president and chief legal officer, paid $100,000 on Dec. 29 for 1,933 shares, a per-share average price of $51.49. According to a form he filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Czachor now owns 10,517 shares.

Czachor said he bought the stock because “I believe in the long-term prospects of the company.” He declined to indicate a fair price for shares, but noted that he has seen “success and improvement in the company,” and that the stock should trade back at earlier, higher levels. “I’m bullish on the prospects,” he said.

Chairman Jeffrey Armstrong paid $125,000 on Dec. 15 for 2,500 shares, an average price of $50 each. Armstrong now owns 25,000 shares.

Armstrong didn’t respond to a request for comment. He was buying the stock earlier in 2021, as well, paying $127,725 in September for 2,500 shares, an average per-share price of $51.09, and paying $174,000 in July for 2,500 shares, an average per-share price of $69.62.

J.P. Morgan analyst Tyler J. Langton thinks Piedmont could start construction on a lithium mine by the end of this year. The company could receive a state mining and air permit for the project by the end of the first quarter or early in the second, Langton wrote in a Dec. 14 research report.

“Given its location, environmentally friendly profile, and low-cost position, we continue to believe Piedmont will be an attractive partner for companies in the EV supply chain,” Langton wrote. He rates the stock at Overweight with an $84 price target.

Inside Scoop is a regular Barron’s feature covering stock transactions by corporate executives and board members—so-called insiders—as well as large shareholders, politicians, and other prominent figures. Due to their insider status, these investors are required to disclose stock trades with the Securities and Exchange Commission or other regulatory groups.

Write to Ed Lin at [email protected] and follow @BarronsEdLin.

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