(Reuters) - Australia's Wesfarmers Ltd said on Tuesday it is still interested in acquiring Lynas Corp Ltd and could table a less conditional bid for the only major producer of rare earth elements outside China.
An initial offer of A$1.5 billion (£818 million) by the retail-to-chemicals conglomerate was previously rebuffed by Lynas' board, which termed the deal "highly conditional".
"Wesfarmers remains open to engage with the Lynas Board on our proposal, with a view to progressing a less conditional proposal," Managing Director Rob Scott said in a statement.
Wesfarmers' initial bid was subject to a range of conditions, including that Lynas has relevant operating licences in Malaysia for a "satisfactory period" following the close of the deal.
Lynas, which has an $800 million processing facility in Malaysia, is in a dispute with the Southeast Asian nation, which has told it to remove years of accumulated waste at its Malaysian processing plant in order to have its licence renewed.
On Monday, Lynas Corp said it is considering initial ore processing near its Australian mine.
The statement came after Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said last week that companies interested in acquiring Lynas had pledged to decontaminate low-level radioactivity from mined ore before shipping it to the country.
Wesfarmers said on Tuesday that it saw Lynas's announcements on Monday as positive progress towards satisfactory licence certainty.
"Wesfarmers expects that detailed licence conditions will be communicated in due course by the Malaysian Government. This will allow a detailed assessment of the costs and timeline to address the licence conditions," it said.
(Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; editing by Richard Pullin)