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Unlisted Hancock Prospecting has achieved its targeted stake objective of a 19.9% ownership in lithium developer Liontown Resources, as that company extended its due diligence talks with critical minerals major Albemarle.

On announcing its 19.9% shareholding milestone, Hancock Prospecting said that the company now looked forward to having a ‘prominent influence on Liontowns future” as the company’s now-largest shareholder.

Hancock previously expressed its concerns around Liontown’s ability to bring the Kathleen Valley project to fruition, after Liontown warned that capital costs for the project were now estimated at A$951-million, up from the previous estimate of A$895-million. Liontown also shelved plans for a direct shipping ore (DSO) operation at Kathleen Valley on the back of the softening lithium prices, a move which has drawn criticism from Hancock.

It has been widely speculated that Hancock’s increasing stake in Liontown would give the company the leverage to block a takeover offer from critical minerals major Albemarle.

Albemarle is in the midst of a due diligence on Liontown after announcing a A$6.6-billion bid for Liontown, tentatively offering A$3 a share for the ordinary outstanding shares int eh company.

Liontown on Thursday told shareholders that Albemarle has been granted a short extension on its due diligence process, following a request from Albemarle. The exclusive due diligence period has been extended by seven days, on the same terms.