Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto had $3.9bn (£2.5bn) to buy African-focussed rival Riversdale in agreed but investors are betting on a possible bidding war from rival suitors.
Rio's first big acquisition since its ill-timed Alcan buy in 2007 also needs the backing of at least one of Riversdale's three large shareholders. Fund managers said they expected India's Tata Steel and Brazilian steel group CSN to oppose the offer.
Rio, which wants access to Riversdale's coking coal deposits in Mozambique, raised its offer to A$16 per share cash on Thursday from an earlier indicative bid of A$15.
Riversdale's shares rose as high as A$16.84 when the stock resumed trading, indicating investors were expecting a higher offer from a rival party.
"I think there is a strong potential (for rival bids). There aren't that many big new coking coal assets out there and this one is very large and it's near to production," said Andrew Harrington, an analyst at Patersons Securities in Sydney.
A group of state-run Indian firms including NTPC have also indicated they were looking at Riversdale, with a source at a member of the consortium telling Reuters it expected to decide soon whether to bid.
Other interested parties taking a look at Riversdale include Anglo American, ArcelorMittal and Xstrata, sources familiar with the matter and fund managers have said.
The miner needs acceptances from 50 percent of Riversdale shareholders which would require getting on board at least one of the target's three big shareholders – Tata, CSN and US fund Passport Capital – which together own about half of the company, according to Reuters data.
"I think Tata will be reluctant to be bought out, having been a long-term believer, just as it's entering into production," Patersons' Harrington said.
City A.M. Reporter