Asia's richest woman and iron ore billionaire plotting move on China's baby milk market

Gina Rinehart, the Australian billionaire who built her fortune on iron ore, is planning a A$500 million (S$562.58 million) investment to supply infant formula to a Chinese market forecast to almost double over three years, the Age newspaper reported on Friday.

Hope Dairies, named after Rinehart's mother, is seeking to acquire about 5000 hectares of farmland in Queensland state and is targeting first production in the second half of 2016, the paper said.

The move comes as Australian miners including Fortescue Metals Group's founder expand into food production to tap rising demand from Asia's middle classes, said The Age.

It positions Rinehart, the richest woman in Asia, to compete in an infant formula market in China forecast to swell after the world's most populous nation loosened its one-child policy last year, it added.

A free-trade deal with China, seen boosting dairy exports, may be signed next week, Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a November 10 interview.