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Saudis to buy WA miner

A little known Saudi Arabian company is poised to become a major Western Australian exporter if the proposed acquisition of mineral sands miner Bemax Resources Ltd, which has major WA operations, goes ahead.

The National Titanium Dioxide Company Ltd, trading as Cristal Australia Pty Ltd, has proposed an all-cash $301 million takeover offer for Brisbane-based Bemax, which has extensive operations in WA's South West.

If the offer is accepted, it will become the second business Cristal has taken over with major operations in the state.

In 2007, Cristal bought the titanium dioxide pigment business Millennium Inorganic Chemicals Ltd for about $US1.3 billion.

Millennium also has major operations in WA, with about 400 employees at its plant at the Kemerton industrial park near Bunbury.

Speaking to WA Business News, Cristal's senior vice-president (strategy and supply chain), Steve Ward, said the company would use Bemax to supply feedstock to its existing Millennium operations in the state.

He said the company would continue Bemax's current exporting programs.

"In acquiring Millennium last year, we became the second largest in pigment manufacturing in the world," Mr Ward said.

"With this move we can own more of the feedstock which we can then use for our growth plans in Western Australia."

He said Cristal's offer would give Bemax shareholders a substantial premium for their shares in cash. Cristal already has a 34.5 per cent stake in Bemax, which owns the Cable Sands mineral sands operation in WA.

Mr Ward said if the takeover was accepted, Cristal would capitalise on Bemax's mineral sands expertise and continue with its current operations throughout WA, as it had no mineral sands expertise of its own.

"The proposed acquisition of Bemax is a strategic investment and will provide key support to the development of the existing Australian operations of the Millennium business," Cristal said in a statement.

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