(Bloomberg) — Australia’s richest woman has amassed a stake in lithium producer Albemarle Corp.’s A$6.6 billion ($4.3 billion) takeover target Liontown Resources Ltd., and suggested she may push for a board seat.
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Iron ore mining billionaire Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd. confirmed Tuesday it had acquired a 7.72% stake in Liontown and said it believed it could help steer the company’s metal conversion and growth. The Australian lithium miner’s shares have been intermittently trading since Thursday above the A$3 per share offer price that won Albemarle four weeks of due diligence.
Hancock said in a statement that it offers Liontown “the opportunity to leverage Hancock’s expertise where it is of value to support the Project’s development and subsequent operations.”
“Hancock can contribute to Liontown’s future direction alongside other Liontown shareholders,” it added, “including in relation to potential investment opportunities for downstream value add in West Australia.”
The words suggest a threat to upset takeover plans by the world’s largest producer of what has become the in-vogue industry metal. Perth-based Liontown owns one of Australia’s most promising early-stage lithium projects, and has inked supply agreements with major automakers including Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc. and Ford Motor Co. to go with it.
The project “is a prospective high quality hard-rock lithium deposit in its development phase, which whilst still having a number of significant risks including resource conversion, construction execution and metallurgical recovery, has the potential to operate at scale,” Hancock said.
Albemarle has been granted due diligence after raising its cash offer by 20% in a best and final proposal, Liontown said Sept 4. The Australian miner’s shares jumped 8.8% in Sydney that day.
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