October 25, 2016 / 7:57 AM / 3 years ago

Australia's richest woman invests $300 million in UK fertiliser firm

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Hancock Prospecting (Pty) Ltd, controlled by Australian billionaire iron ore magnate Gina Rinehart, on Tuesday said it was investing $300 million (245.30 million pounds) in British fertiliser business Sirius Minerals Plc (SXX.L) as it moves deeper into agriculture.

The Sirius Minerals test drilling station is seen on the North Yorkshire Moors near Whitby, northern England July 5, 2013. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis

Hancock said Sirius could become one of the world’s leading producers of multi-nutrient fertiliser.

The company, which has a market capitalisation of 792 million pounds according to Reuters data, is developing a polyhalite project in North Yorkshire in the United Kingdom.

“This fits with my approach of investing in strategic areas for the long term, and I hope the product is of assistance to many Australian farmers,” Rinehart said in a statement.

Sirius Chief Executive Chris Fraser said Hancock’s investment would bring mining and agricultural sector expertise to the operation.

Polyhalite is a naturally occurring mineral containing four of the six nutrients that ensure plant growth – potassium, sulphur, magnesium and calcium.

In a note Shore Capital, which rates Sirius a buy, said the polyhalite price could be a significant source of upside as yields being demonstrated in crop trials suggest it could command a premium.

It called Rinehart’s backing “a resounding endorsement” and said it expected the conclusion of stage one financing this year. A further $800 million will need to be raised.

Sirius’ share price was up 3.6 percent by 1133 GMT.

Hancock is also in a joint $278 million bid with China’s Shanghai CRED Real Estate for Australia’s biggest cattle empire, S. Kidman & Co.

Rinehart is attempting to persuade the Kidman cattle empire that her offer remains superior after a group of four wealthy graziers, known as BBHO, made a A$386 million (240.97 million pounds) bid.

Reporting by James Regan; additional reporting by Barbara Lewis in London; editing by Christian Schmollinger and Jason Neely

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