UPDATE 2.35pm: Mineral Resources has added spice to the Aquila Resources takeover story after it acquired a 12.1 per cent slice of the target this morning.
Aquila confirmed that a block of about 50 million of its shares changed hands for $3.75 this morning, with the vendor being one of the company's institutional investors, M&G Investment Management.
Aquila said it had not been notified as to the identity or intentions of the purchaser, however it noted media speculation and the trading halt request this morning by Mineral Resources, suggesting that the purchaser was an entity associated with the iron ore miner and mining contractor.
MinRes must lodge a substantial shareholders notice with the ASX by 7.30am tomorrow.
Aquila said it welcomed recognition that the recent joint takeover bid by China's Baosteel and rail operator Aurizon, worth $3.40 a share, was out of the money.
The company reiterated earlier advice that shareholders take no action on the Baosteel/Aurizon bid until the board made a formal recommendation, expected in a target's statement from the company before the end of the week.
Baosteel/Aurizon's $3.40 bid had already faced resistance from Aquila investors before the MinRes move, with the target's share price consistently trading above the offer price.
Aquila shares surged 12 cents, or 3.44 per cent, to close at $3.61 after trading as high as $3.77 shortly after the open.
MinRes, which has small iron ore mining operations in the Pilbara and Yilgarn, is a customer of Aurizon’s rail service to Kwinana.
MinRes’ relationship to Aquila is unclear, as is whether the Chris Ellison-controlled company supports the broader concept of a Baosteel-Aurizon takeover play.
Meanwhile this morning, Aquila also announced it had signed native title agreements with indigenous owners over the company’s 50 per cent owned West Pilbara iron ore project.
Aquila said the agreements with the Kuruma Marthudunera native title group were important milestones towards the achievement of a mining licence.
"The native title agreements will allow for the development of mine and rail infrastructure on native title claim areas," the company said in a statement.
Aquila said negotiations on native title agreements with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikurra claim group were also well advanced and were expected to be finalised in the September quarter.
Aquila holds a 50 per cent interest in the Australian Premium Iron Ore joint venture with AMCI holding the balance.