Private equity fund takes 20% stake in EV data provider Benchmark Mineral

By Ernest Scheyder

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Private equity fund Spectrum Equity has bought a 20% stake in UK-based Benchmark Mineral Intelligence in a deal that values the data and information provider for the electric vehicle (EV) supply chain at just under $500 million.

The investment, announced on Wednesday at Benchmark's critical minerals conference in Los Angeles, comes amid growing demand from automakers and other manufacturers for specialized pricing of lithium, nickel, cobalt and other metals related to the energy transition from fossil fuels.

Specific terms were not disclosed.

While it started with niche products, Benchmark has quickly grown to be a top source of information for miners, battery makers, politicians and others keeping an eye on the fast-growing electrification space.

Subscription-based Benchmark plans to use the funds to expand globally outside its London hub. It recently opened a Washington, D.C., office and said it would soon expand to Indonesia and Australia. The company is expecting to employ more than 170 people by next year, up from 30 two years ago.

Benchmark also plans to collaborate with Spectrum on sales and technology infrastructure, two areas that have held back the company's growth plans, Simon Moores, Benchmark's founder, told the conference.

Reuters reported earlier this year that Benchmark had talked to several private equity funds about buying stakes.

While it lost out to rival Fastmarkets in 2019 to provide reference pricing for the London Metal Exchange's lithium contract, Benchmark has wasted little time since mapping out aggressive growth targets and attracting key industry players.

Moores and Benchmark hosted Stanley Whittingham, the Nobel laureate who invented the lithium-ion battery, at the Los Angeles conference this week, as well as Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former California governor and climate change advocate.

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)