SYDNEY, June 12 Mineral Resources Ltd
said it wants to build and operate Australia's West Pilbara Iron
Ore project after confirming it has bought 12.8 percent of
Aquila Resources, the target of a hostile takeover led
by China's Baosteel Resources.
Mineral Resources, a mining contractor, said it had
purchased a total of 52,640,248 shares in Aquila on market using
its own cash to give it a seat at the table on the project.
"MRL (Mineral Resources) ... now intends to fully engage in
collaborative discussions to ensure the Project is brought into
production as soon as possible," the company said in a statement
to the stock exchange on Thursday.
Mineral Resources said it hoped to win contracts for the
construction and delivery of the port and rail infrastructure,
as well as the constuction and operation of the mine.
Shares in Mineral Resources fell 3.5 percent in early
trading, while Aquila shares were down 2.5 percent.
Baosteel and Australian rail operator Aurizon Holdings Ltd
formally launched a bid for Aquila at A$3.40 a share
last week, valuing the company at A$1.42 billion ($1.33
Aquila has told shareholders to sit tight while an
independent committee reviews the offer and has not spoken to
Baosteel. The company has until June 20 to issue a formal
response to the bid.
Mineral Resources said it has already worked up a
development plan for the West Pilbara Iron Ore project, which
has been stalled over how to fund the estimated $7 billion cost.
Baosteel has expressed frustration with delays on the iron
ore project and wants to kickstart the development by taking
over Aquila. Aurizon's goal is to take control of the rail and
port tied to the project and open them up to other
The project is co-owned by South Korean steel giant POSCO
and U.S. based investor AMCI, which have both said
they remain committed to it.
The biggest obstacle to the deal, which values Aquila at
A$1.42 billion, is support from its founder, Tony Poli, who
holds a 29 percent stake. For the takeover to succeed, the
suitors need the approval of at least half of Aquila's share
(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Richard Pullin)