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Friday, March 15, 2024

Labor rolls the red carpet out for Gina and her flatlining investments

It’s only a couple of months since mining heiress Gina Rinehart™ used her bizarre award of “Business Person of the Year” to whine at length ↗ about how nasty the government was to her. “We need policies that make investment in our country worth doing,” she warned. “Rolling out the red carpet for investment … We need to understand that rolling out the red carpet for investment does not mean increasing government red tape and regulations. It does not mean the overburdened taxpayers paying for lawfare to delay or stop projects.”

Rinehart didn’t say what she thought it did mean, but we’ve got a clearer idea after lithium developer Liontown Resources got $230 million in government agency loans, and Arafura Rare Earths received $840 million in loans and straight handouts to develop a lithium mine and refinery in the Northern Territory.

Now, you won’t believe this, but the Financial Review, normally quick to scold the government for spending money unnecessarily, which barely a week ago complained ↗ of “the government-driven saviour economy in which people feel entitled without having to do much for it”, hasn’t uttered a critical word about these handouts.

Rinehart is a beneficiary of both via her ill-timed and now loss-making investments in Liontown and Arafura. Last year, she bought 19.9% of Liontown, which wants to develop a major lithium prospect called Kathleen Valley in central WA, and forced US lithium giant, Albemarle, to abandon a A$6.6 billion takeover of Liontown.

As it turned out, this helped Albemarle avoid what would have been a hugely expensive mistake. Rinehart spent more than $1 billion buying almost all of her shares for around $3, which was Albemarle’s offer price. Liontown was trading around $1.36 on Thursday, so the heiress is down hundreds of millions of dollars.

After Liontown secured the $230 million in Export Finance Corp of Australia and Clean Energy Finance Corporation loans and another $200+ million in private loans, its shares surged to a high of $1.52 before falling back. (Late last year, Rinehart also snapped up an 18.3% stake in lithium-wannabe Azure Resources. Since then, her company has joined with Chinese-Chilean lithium giant SQM to make a $3.71 a share offer. The value of the Azure stake: just over $300 million).

Rinehart’s investment in Arafura Rare Earths began in late 2022 when she took a 10% stake in the company via a share issue at 37 cents a share. Even after shares in Arafura Rare Earths surged more than 77% on Thursday to 28 cents after the $840 million was revealed, she’s still losing money on her Arafura stake.

Fortunately the government, as part of its “critical minerals strategy” (“critical minerals” being a subjective category that risks inflating over time, as the Productivity Commission pointed out ↗) has sent taxpayers to Rinehart’s rescue and rolled out the red carpet for investment — by providing the investment the market should be providing.

Among the Twitterati the complaint is that the government is handing $840 million to Rinehart. In fact it’s giving it to a company she’s invested in, along with a lot of other investors, and some of it will have to be repaid. And you can bet that a lot of the government’s critics actually like the idea of taxpayers investing so that Australia develops an industry further up the production chain than simply digging up lithium and sending it to China, on the basis that we can’t trust China with critical mineral production.

Arafura and Liontown can’t fund their projects because their share is so low — or, in other words, investors weren’t prepared to back them. Why isn’t Rinehart putting in more of her own money, and instead letting taxpayers risk their hard-earned? And at her next speech attacking Labor, will she bother acknowledging just how much red carpet it rolled out for her?

BFIA Admin
BFIA Admin
The big boss.

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