Höwler International Investor Relations and Consulting
– Finanzkommunikation und Unternehmensberatung –
Inh. Dipl.-Kfm. Maurice Höwler


Dear investors and friends, The world is changing and there is no doubt that in the 21st century our modern civilization will step into a new age. In these days, politicians and industry representatives are constantly debating about the Industrial Revolution 4.0, which can be described as a fusion of several advances in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of Things, 3D printing, genetic engineering, quantum computing and other essential technologies. In the near future, computers will be smarter and faster than ever before. Innovative biomaterials could replace plastics and lead to a cleaner environment. Such materials could also revolutionize the industrial manufacturing processes. Certain metal alloys may shake up the industry sectors manufacturing, renewable energy, construction and healthcare. In particular for the success of the green energy revolution, improvements in regard to the efficient storage and transmission of renewable power are crucial. Investors who would like to benefit from such advances in essential technologies often consider about an investment in the so-called strategic metals, which are recognized by governments around the world as a very critical factor for our future global economic growth. A strategic metal is basically defined as a metal that is critical to a nation’s economy or defense industry due to the fact that it is not available in that country in commercially viable quantities. In this issue I like to focus on Niobium (Nb) and Palladium (Pd). Both elements are considered as strategic metals here in the EU. In 1801 the English chemist Charles Hatchett was the first who identified a new unknown element similar to tantalum and named it columbium. 43 years later, the German Heinrich Rose analyzed tantalum ore and came to the conclusion that it contains a second element, which he named niobium. Scientists finally clarified that niobium and columbium were the same element and in 1949 niobium was officially adopted as the name of this quite rare, light grey and crystalline transition metal. Niobium is mainly used in alloys. It is essential for the production of High-Strength Low-Alloy Steel (HSLA) which is used for gas pipelines and steel bridges. The common alloys contain a maximum of only 0.1% of Niobium. Nevertheless, the small percentage enhances the strength of the steel significantly. The high temperature stability of Nb-nickel, Nb-cobalt and Nb-iron based super alloys is the reason for its use in both jet and rocket engines. In addition this element plays a key role in the superconducting industry. The superconducting-alloys Nb-germanium, Nb-titanium and Nb-tin are used in superconducting magnets of Magnetic Resonance Imaging instruments and also in particle accelerators, such as the CERN Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. Other applications include welding, the nuclear power industry, quantum computing technologies, optics and jewelry. Niobium is therefore considered as a technology-critical element. Presently 90% of niobium and ferroniobium, an alloy with a Nb2O5 content of 60% is mined in Brazil. The Nb price has increased in recent years. According to the private German Institute for Rare Earth Elements and Metals e.V., niobium pentoxide (Nb2O5 99.99%) was traded on average at around US$ 41.71 per kg in May 2020. Palladium (Pd) was first discovered in 1803 by the English chemist William Hyde Wollaston. Together with platinum, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium and osmium, the silvery-white palladium belongs to the Platinum Group Metals (PGMs). All of these metals have similar chemical properties, but palladium has the lowest melting point and density. Today, more than half of the global palladium supply is used in the automobile industry for catalytic converters which are able to convert up to 90% of the harmful gases of combustion engines exhaust into less noxious substances. Other applications include electronics, hydrogen purification, dentistry and jewelry. In addition, palladium is a key component of fuel cells, which react hydrogen with oxygen to produce electricity, heat and water. Extensive ore deposits of palladium are rare but can be found in South Africa, Russia, Montana, USA and in Ontario, Canada. The global palladium production has declined in recent years. On the other hand, the investment interest has increased significantly. Investors have realized how crucial this metal will be for the modern revolution in essential technologies, in particular for the production of fuel cells. As a result, there is a significant supply deficit in the market and the Pd price has shown an impressive performance in the second half of 2019 (latest price on May 8th 2020 was US$ 1,885 per ounce).