Rinehart closer to blocking Albemarle’s takeover of Liontown

Kathleen Valley mining camp. (Image courtesy of Liontown Resources.)

Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart’s company Hancock Prospecting has once again increased its stake in Liontown Resources (ASX: LTR) to 16.7%, becoming the company’s largest shareholder.

Australia’s richest person has been growing her stake in takeover-target Liontown since early September, right after the lithium producer accepted Albemarle’s (NYSE: ALB) revised $4.3 billion bid.

Her latest acquisition has placed Rinehart above Liontown chairman Tim Goyder, who was the company’s biggest shareholder for years with a stake that currently stands at 15%.

Albemarle, the world’s top lithium producer, has been after Liontown for months, as it has been seeking to secure supplies of the key electric vehicle battery metal. Its first attempt to buy the Perth-based company was rejected in March.

Albemarle is due to complete four weeks of due diligence on Liontown Friday, which means the US-based miner would be able to announce in the next few days whether it will push ahead with the takeover.

The takeover of Liontown would hand the US-based miner the Kathleen Valley lithium deposit, located 680 km north-east of Perth in Western Australia’s premier mining district. 

The asset is considered one of the world’s largest and highest-grade hard rock lithium deposits, with a mineral resource estimate of 156 million tonnes at 1.4% lithium oxide and 130ppm tantalum oxide.

Liontown already has supply agreements with Tesla and Ford Motor, as well as with South Korean-based LG Energy Solution.

The Kathleen Valley project, on track to begin commercial production in mid-2024, is forecast to initially produce around 500,000 tonnes a year of spodumene concentrate expanding to 700,000 tonnes annually in six years.

Rinehart owns shares in other lithium producers such as Patriot Battery Metals (ASX, TSX: PMT) and Delta Lithium (ASX: DLI), but the main focus of her investment is iron ore.