PERTH (miningweekly.com) – ASX-listed Atlas Iron on Thursday said that the company had attributed no value to its interest in the North West Infrastructure (NWI) joint venture, or its intention to develop export capacity at the port of Port Hedland.
Atlas was responding to a query from shareholder Fortescue, which urged clarity on Atlas’ position in relation to the planned Stanley Point Berths 3 and 4, after the takeover target earlier this month reported that it no longer had priority right to develop the two berths.
Western Australian Transport, Planning and Lands Minister Rita Saffioti told Atlas that the berths had been set aside for junior miners, and that the Pilbara Ports Authority would assess any application by NWI to develop these berths on its merits.
However, Atlas on Thursday pointed to subsequent comments by Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan, which indicated that the state government had not ruled out a compromise on the ‘junior miner’ policy, if an iron-ore major emerged as the new owner of Atlas.
Atlas’ ability to develop the additional 50-million-tonne-a-year export capacity could prove to be a linchpin in the battle to own the junior miner, as major iron-ore producers would be unable to make use of the berths under the current ‘junior miner’ policy.
The majority of Atlas directors were currently backing a takeover bid from Hancock Prospecting, which was offering 4.2c a share in cash for all the issued shares in Atlas.
The offer from Hancock, which already holds a 19.96% interest in Atlas, trumped an earlier offer from fellow listed Mineral Resources, which had declined to match the A$390-million Hancock bid.
However, Fortescue, which also holds a 19.9% interest in Atlas, recently launched an application to the Australian Takeovers Panel, in a bid to stop Hancock Prospecting from gaining a greater stake in Atlas, claiming that Hancock’s bidder statement contained misleading statements and material omissions regarding the company’s intentions with Atlas.
Fortescue is the world’s fourth-largest iron-ore miner, planning to ship some 170-million tonnes of iron-ore in the 2018 financial year, while Hancock Prospecting holds a 70% interest in the massive Roy Hill iron-ore mine.