Rio Tinto's £234m Argyle bid trumps De Beers

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The Independent Online

The battle to control Argyle, the world's largest diamond mine, reached a new pitch yesterday when the mining giant Rio Tinto launched a rival A$600m (£234m) bid for Australia's Ashton Mining, which holds a 40.1 per cent stake in Argyle.

The battle to control Argyle, the world's largest diamond mine, reached a new pitch yesterday when the mining giant Rio Tinto launched a rival A$600m (£234m) bid for Australia's Ashton Mining, which holds a 40.1 per cent stake in Argyle.

The offer values Ashton at A$1.85 a share and trumps the A$1.62 bid made last month by the diamond company De Beers. Yesterday Ashton shares rose above the A$1.85 offer price to close at A$2.03.

De Beers, which controls more than 60 per cent of the world diamond market, said it would persist with its bid and perhaps raise it. "We are reviewing our own situation and will be issuing a statement in due course," a spokesman said. Earlier in the day the company confirmed it would despatch offer documents to Ashton shareholders next week.

Rio Tinto, which owns the remainder of Argyle, in Western Australia, made the cash offer for its joint venture partner Ashton after learning that Malaysia Mining Corporation Berhad, was willing to sell its 19.9 per cent stake. Details of Rio's bid are to be sent to Ashton shareholders in early September.

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