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Baosteel to take major stake in Aquila

SYDNEY, Aug 28 – Australian miner Aquila on Friday said China\’s Baosteel would take a 15 percent stake in its operations in a bid to fast-track its iron ore, coal and manganese projects.

Baosteel, China\’s largest steel manufacturer, would invest 285.6 million dollars (240.1 million US) via a placement of 43.95 million shares, making it Aquila\’s second-largest stakeholder, the miner said.

"This is a transforming event," Aquila said, in a statement to the market.

"The strategic cooperation that has been established … is expected to deliver significant long-term benefits for both Aquila and Baosteel, and significant benefits to both Australia and China."

Aquila said it was Baosteel\’s first major global strategic investment in a public company, and an important step in securing raw materials.

Under the agreement, Baosteel would source low-cost financing from China for most of Aquila\’s major projects and would have preferential opportunities to directly invest and co-develop, Aquila said.

"For Baosteel, (Aquila\’s) portfolio of projects has the potential to deliver significant new supplies of iron ore, coking coal and manganese," Aquila said.

"The involvement of Baosteel now paves the way for Aquila to pursue its strategic vision," it added.

Manganese is a metal most commonly used as an alloy in stainless steel.

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Australia\’s foreign investments watchdog will have to approve the deal, the latest in a series of Chinese moves into Australia\’s giant resources sector.

China pledged billions of dollars in financing for Fortescue Metals last week, while Yanzhou Coal has launched a takeover of Felix Resources and OZ Minerals sold most of its assets to Chinese firm Minmetals in June.

Chinalco\’s 19.5 US billion dollar cash injection was turned down by mining giant Rio Tinto, weeks before top executive Stern Hu was detained in Shanghai for alleged spying, later downgraded to industrial espionage.

Aquila boss Tony Poli said the deal was an opportunity for Canberra to send a "positive message to China".

Baosteel said it was "upbeat" about the growth potential of Aquila\’s assets, and described it as a "win-win" situation.

"It also marks an important and solid step for Baosteel to become more international," it said in a statement.

The agreement also follows the signing of a record 41 billion US dollar gas supply deal between Australia\’s ExxonMobil and PetroChina and resumption of stalled free trade talks with Beijing.

Intense demand from the emerging economies of China and India for resources has underpinned a period of stellar growth for Australia\’s mining and energy sectors.

Trade with Beijing, the world\’s largest consumer of iron ore and coal, was worth 58 billion US dollars last year alone.

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