Gina Rinehart makes a move on Atlas Iron

Gina Rinehart’s company Hancock Prospecting has acquired an “aggregate beneficial and economic interest” of 19.96 per cent of Atlas Iron’s shares, slightly trumping Fortescue Metal Group’s 19.9 per cent bid last week.

Both companies’ bids for Atlas stops just short of the 20 per cent requirement that would force them to make a legal bid for a full takeover. Hancock purchased 14.97 per cent directly, with a further 4.99 per cent purchased via cash-settled swap by Hancock subsidiary Redstone Corporation.

Atlas yesterday announced a trading halt on the ASX pending the release of a company announcement of commencement of trading on June 15, whichever comes first.

Fortescue’s move last week to purchase 19.9 per cent of Atlas Iron (15 per cent at 4 cents per share plus a 4.9 per cent cash-settled swap) put paid to plans for a rival all-scrip takeover bid from Mineral Resources (MinRes) for $280 million.

MinRes has since purchased the Koolyanobbing iron ore operation in the Yilgarn region of Western Australia from owner Cleveland-Cliffs in a deal expected to save hundreds of jobs.

Though further confirmation is required from Hancock and Fortescue, mining commentators have speculated that a primary point of interest for the involved parties in the purchase of the beleaguered miner is the strategic value to be gained from securing access to its port berths at Port Hedland, which have a 13Mt/y capacity. It is yet to be seen whether there will be any further rival bids for control of Atlas down the line.