Australia’s richest person Gina Rinehart has snapped up a 16.7% stake in Liontown Resources, her company announced on Friday.
The Perth billionaire has become Liontown’s biggest shareholder, her company Hancock Prospecting said, and is now close to being able to block Albemarle’s $4.3-billion takeover of the lithium miner.
Rinehart has not said publicly whether she supports or opposes the takeover bid but has steadily built a position in Liontown since early September when Albemarle, the world’s biggest lithium producer, was granted access to Liontown’s books after revising a takeover proposal.
Liontown declined to comment, while Albemarle did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
All eyes on Kathleen Valley project
Albermarle’s bid, made through a scheme of arrangement, requires 75% support from Liontown investors. A stake of between 15 and 20% can often become a blocking stake depending on investor turnout on the day of the shareholder meeting.
Hancock said it had no plans to nominate directors at Liontown’s upcoming annual general meeting in November but remained open to doing so in the future, especially “if its strategic stake continues to increase towards 19.9%,” the company said in a statement.
“Hancock welcomes the opportunity to participate in the Kathleen Valley project as a shareholder, and have an influence on the company’s overall future direction – including where decisions are to be made by shareholders,” the company added.
Liontown’s Kathleen Valley lithium project in the centre of Western Australia is regarded as one of the world’s most promising lithium deposits and the developer has already agreed to supply US car giant Ford with the battery raw material.
Tesla signed a deal with Albemarle several years ago, but it also signed a five-year lithium supply deal with Liontown in February of last year, according to a report last month by Teslarati.
Hancock, 69, is the daughter of legendary iron magnate Lang Hancock. Forbes put her personal wealth at $25.7 billion recently and noted that, aside from her substantial iron ore holdings, she also “significant investments” in rare earths and the bas sector.
If Hancock’s shareholding in Liontown goes above 19.9%, she will have to declare her intention for that investment.
- Reuters with additional reporting and editing by Jim Pollard