In the midst of navigating the fallout from his multibillion-dollar separation from wife Nicola, Andrew Forrest, the Australian billionaire and founder of Fortescue Metals Group (ASX:FMG), has set his sights on a high-powered US trip.
The tour includes advocating for his green hydrogen push at the White House and inspecting Austal’s shipyards in Alabama.
Andrew Forrest’s private investment vehicle, Tattarang, holds a significant 19 percent stake in Austal, a prominent ASX-listed shipbuilder. Austal, which has lucrative contracts with the US Navy, entered a trading halt amid growing interest from North American suitors, raising speculations about potential takeovers.
However, a spokesperson for Dr. Forrest refrained from commenting on such rumours and confirmed his commitment, along with Tattarang’s CEO, John Hartman, to the company.
During their US visit, Dr. Forrest and Mr. Hartman visited Austal’s facility in Alabama, where they witnessed the USS Canberra’s commissioning, a vessel that was built by Austal. Prior to this, they attended crucial meetings at the White House and participated in business briefings in Boston and New York.
Amidst the turmoil back home, Fortescue Metals Group marked its 20th anniversary and made its initial magnetite shipment from the Iron Bridge project to Vietnam, following a minor delay.
Simultaneously, within Dr. Forrest’s business realm, Felicity Gooding, the acting CFO of his green energy arm, Fortescue Future Industries, has resigned, adding to the challenges faced by the prominent iron ore magnate.
The separation from his wife, Nicola, after 31 years of marriage, is deemed the most significant wealth split in Australia’s history.
While Dr. Forrest and Ms. Forrest have decided not to divorce, they have equally divided almost all of their extensive Fortescue Metals Group shares, worth approximately $20 billion.
Despite the split, Nicola Forrest’s assets have placed her ahead in terms of wealth, now estimated at $15.46 billion, securing her the seventh position on Australia’s Richest 250 list. This figure stands approximately $1.1 billion higher than Andrew Forrest’s $14.35 billion.
The US trip also witnessed an announcement from Dr. Forrest about Fortescue Future Industries’ acquisition of Phoenix Hydrogen Hub (PHH) for $US24 million. This move marks the company’s first major venture into the American green hydrogen sector, following the passing of US President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act.
Phase one of the PHH project entails an 80-megawatt electrolyser and liquefaction facility, with an annual production capacity of 12,000 tonnes of liquefied green hydrogen. Fortescue Future Industries expects this output to replace 10 million gallons (38 million litres) of diesel per year.
Dr. Forrest previously met with President Biden in April, engaging in a “frank” and “lively” discussion concerning his green energy initiatives. The announcement of the Phoenix deal was made via video call from New York during Fortescue’s anniversary celebrations, reaching out to the company’s 20,000 staff members.
Despite the challenges and uncertainties, Mr. Hartman expressed optimism about Austal’s prospects, particularly with Australia’s defence pact with the US and UK, known as AUKUS. He believes that Austal’s US operations are still in the early stages of growth and anticipates new opportunities arising from the Australian Defence Strategic Review and AUKUS.
Dr. Forrest’s US trip is not only focused on advancing his green hydrogen vision but also serves as a strategic move in the face of personal and professional challenges. With his ongoing commitment to business ventures, Dr. Forrest remains a prominent figure in the global energy and mining sectors.