February 28, 2020 / 3:21 AM / in a month

Fortescue's billionaire owner Forrest ups stake, lauds green efforts

Feb 28 (Reuters) - Billionaire Andrew Forrest raised his stake in Fortescue Metals Group, snapping up a further A$242.9 million ($160.2 million) in the Australian iron ore miner he founded, and praised the group’s environmental credentials.

Forrest, who is also Fortescue’s chairman and largest shareholder, bought 22.1 million shares on top of the 1.09 billion he already owned, which represented a 35.3% stake.

Fortescue shares nearly tripled over 2019 thanks to higher iron ore prices. The Perth-based miner last week reported a near four-fold jump in half-year profit.

In a separate statement, Forrest said his decision was partly driven by Fortescue’s commitment to community and environmental responsibility, which comes as the industry moves to limit carbon emissions amid a growing investor focus and public pressure.

Rio Tinto this week pledged $1 billion on climate related spending over the next five years, while BP said it would leave the main U.S. refining lobby and two other trade groups.

“The company believes carbon neutrality must be achieved as soon as possible and is investing in practical initiatives that reduce or eliminate emissions, like solar and hydrogen energy, that are and will make a real difference to carbon reduction,” Forrest added.

While Fortescue and Rio are lowering their own emissions, both have refused to follow BHP’s lead to target emissions of their customers from producing steel, one of the world’s biggest polluting industries.

Fortescue said last month it was investing $450 million to provide low-cost power to its mine sites in the Pilbara iron ore region, doubling down on a push to transition to solar and gas power from diesel.

$1 = 1.5161 Australian dollars Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; editing by Richard Pullin

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