The battle for Atlas Iron has just stepped into overdrive, with Australia’s richest woman – Gina Rinehart – making a more attractive counter bid for the junior iron ore producer.

Ms Rinehart is offering Atlas investors 4.2c cash per share – a nearly 17 per cent premium to the company’s closing share price on Friday.

Shares climbed 25 per cent to 4.5c on news of the offer.

Atlas struck a “friendly” deal with Mineral Resources (ASX:MIN) in April, but Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Metals Group (ASX:FMG) and Ms Rinehart’s unlisted Hancock Prospecting have also both been buying in to the company.

Both Fortescue and Hancock raised their respective stakes to 19.9 per cent last week in a bid to block the Mineral Resources deal.

The $3.2 billion Mineral Resources tabled an all-scrip offer valuing Atlas shares at 3.02c each.

The reason for the fierce competition is the attractiveness of Atlas’ port development rights, according to industry commentators.

Atlas Iron (ASX:AGO) shares over the past six months.
Atlas Iron (ASX:AGO) shares over the past six months.

Atlas has a 63 per cent stake in a joint venture that plans to develop a port facility with the capacity to export 50 million tonnes per annum from Port Hedland.

However, the West Australian government told the $330 million company last week it did not control the right to develop new berths in Port Hedland — because the ports were set aside for junior miners.

Atlas said the government’s position was “contrary to the previous stated policy of the West Australian government and is considering its position with respect to this notice”.