Saturday, March 2

Billionaire Rinehart Boosts Lithium Bet With 18% Azure Stake

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(Bloomberg) — Australia’s richest woman has bought a stake in another of the country’s lithium miners, shortly after amassing enough shares in Liontown Resources Ltd. to block a takeover deal.

Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd. has purchased 18% of Azure Minerals Ltd., it said in a statement on Friday. That comes after the board of the Perth-based Azure backed a A$1.6 billion ($1 billion) takeover offer from Chilean lithium mining giant SQM.

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Azure shares have surged since it reported “exceptional” drilling results at its Andover site in Western Australia in June.

“While Andover shows good prospects, it has a long path and significant risks to navigate before its ultimate potential is known,” Hancock said in the statement, adding that it has “the capacity to support and expedite development.”

The iron ore billionaire earlier bought a 19.9% stake Liontown, which proved enough to scuttle a A$6.6 billion bid for the Western Australian miner by Albemarle Corp., the world’s largest lithium producer. 

The flurry of deals in the lithium sector highlights the battery metal’s crucial role in the energy transition. That’s helped spur a stunning rally for many newly founded and previously little-known companies in Australia, where lithium mining is dominated by small and mid-sized firms.

Rinehart’s shareholding in Azure is still below the 20% level that would trigger a mandatory takeover offer. Earlier on Friday, Hancock’s Roy Hill Holdings Pty said it paid about A$2.3 billion in dividends from its flagship iron ore mine in the year through June.

SQM’s offer is not subject to due diligence conditions. The Chilean miner also made a conditional off-market takeover offer of A$3.50 a share if the scheme of arrangement is not successful, effectively providing a backup deal avenue. Under the terms agreed, the agreement may still be changed but only if a new suitor provides a superior proposal.

(Updates with details from 7th paragraph)

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