Gina Rinehart could be poised to land the first tranche of the massive debt package needed to fund development of her Roy Hill iron ore project, with Korean media reports indicating the Korean EximBank had agreed to extend $US1 billion in project financing loans.
Although Roy Hill executives would not confirm or deny yesterday's reports, the Korea Economic Daily article was also posted on the website of Mrs Rinehart's family company, Hancock Prospecting, which owns 70 per cent of the Roy Hill project.
The Korea EximBank facility is said to include $US550 million in direct loans and $US450 million in loan guarantees.
Roy Hill is chasing about $US4.3 billion in loans from export credit agencies from Korea, Japan and the US, plus an estimated $US3 billion from commercial lenders.
Although the company has recently been coy on the timing of the arrival of its debt package, the process appears to be accelerating, with the announcement of the bulk of the export credit agency packages appearing likely before Christmas.
The US Export-Import Bank gave provisional approval to a $US700 million package last month. A board meeting tonight is expected to deliver the final sign-off on the loan.
Roy Hill is also understood to be seeking up to $US1 billion from the Korea Trade Insurance Corp, $US900 million from the Japan Bank for International Co-operation and $US750 million from the Nippon Export and Investment Insurance Corp.
A book-build for commercial lenders is understood to be ongoing, with the close of export credit agency agreements likely to be a key milestone in those discussions also.
Since July, Roy Hill has also received at least $900 million in equity contributions from minority shareholders POSCO, Marubeni and China Steel Corporation. Documents filed recently with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission but not yet available to the public indicate Roy Hill may have recently extended that equity draw-down.
The company's board is understood to have approved more than $1.2 billion in early-stage works on the $10 billion port, rail and mine project since May.