GINA RINEHART'S Hancock Prospecting has added fuel to speculation of a delay to its $10 billion Roy Hill development by calling for more equity investors amid doubts over the debt component of the deal.
The company sold 30 per cent of the 55 million-tonne-a-year mine, rail and port project to overseas investors this year, including Korean steel giant Posco, Japanese trading house Marubeni and China Steel Corporation.
Industry watchers had assumed Mrs Rinehart would stop at that level to retain majority control of the venture and fund the remainder of the project's costs with bank debt. But, amid falling iron ore prices and doubts about banks' willingness to lend money, Hancock Prospecting's chief development officer, John Klepec, said the company was open to selling more of the project.
"At the end of March, we concluded the delayed but essential equity arrangements for the development of Roy Hill and welcomed our joint venture partners to the project," Mr Klepec said in a speech on Wednesday night. "There is still some opportunity for further equity investors, so don't hesitate to approach us."
The Roy Hill chief executive, Barry Fitzgerald, said last month the company aimed to secure funding approval before the end of this year and was targeting first ore in 2014.
Separately, Hancock - the only company to ink an enterprise migration agreement (EMA) with the Federal government - yesterday appointed the workforce services company Skilled to canvass interest from job seekers for Roy Hill.
In an apparent response to a backlash over its plans to import up to 1700 foreign workers via EMA, to help find 8500 workers during the construction period, Mr Fitzgerald said Skilled would aim to give contractors a ready pool of local workers they could employ.
An analyst at investment house CLSA, Michael Evans, has estimated the chances of Roy Hill hitting its end 2014 production date at less than 20 per cent.
Mrs Rinehart has previously signalled she would also give 5 per cent of equity in Roy Hill to staff.