UPDATE 2.45pm: Shares in Aquila Resources soared 37 per cent this morning after Queensland rail operator Aurizon and Chinese steelmaker Baosteel launched a surprise $1.4 billion cash bid for the aspiring Pilbara iron ore miner.
The Tony Poli-led Aquila stressed that the bid was unsolicited but has left open the door for a friendly resolution, stating "the bidders have indicated a desire to find a pathway to a board recommendation"
Any successful outcome will hinge on the support of Mr Poli, Aquila's founder, the executive chairman and the company's biggest shareholder.
The deal is pitched at $3.40 a share.
Shares in Aquila soared 89 cents, or 36.33 per cent, to close at $3.34 after touching an earlier peak of $3.41.
"Aquila will form an independent board sub-committee to consider and evaluate the proposal and any resulting takeover offer and will update shareholders in due course," Aquila said in response to the bid.
"At this time, Aquila shareholders do not need to take any action in relation to the proposal."
Aurizon, which made its name as Queensland's dominant rail hauler of coal, and Baosteel, China's biggest and best-known steel producer, are scheduled to hold a conference call to discuss their takeover later this morning.
The takeover bid will serve as a huge confidence boost in Aquila's efforts to get its billion-dollar West Pilbara iron ore mine and infrastructure project up, and also dispel doubts that China Inc no longer wants to invest in WA following a string of poor commercial outcomes.
It also comes just weeks after Premier Colin Barnett returned from a trip to China to declare that Baosteel remained committed to developing a new iron ore port at Anketell, west of Rio Tinto's Cape Lambert operation.
Anketell is a key but expensive part of Aquila's West Pilbara plans and would be the first greenfields port development in the Pilbara since CITIC constructed the Cape Preston barging terminal south of Dampier a few years ago.
It is unclear what role Aquila's West Pilbara partner, the Hans Mende-run AMCI, will play in the takeover proposal. There have been persistent rumours AMCI wants to exit West Pilbara although the company formally denied the speculation a month ago.