Hedge fund Odey Asset Management has upped its stake in Sirius Minerals PLC (LON:SXX) for the second time in a week.

The asset manager, which has been openly critical about the proposed takeover by Anglo American plc (LON:AAL), now owns 1.4% (from 1.3% previously) of the troubled fertiliser company.

The FTSE 100-listed group’s offer comes at 5.5p per Sirius share, while the stock was trading at 20p only a year ago.

The financials have driven a wedge in the vast pool of Sirius investors as well as the wider industry.

“If you look at the potential scale and size of the project that Sirius had touted in the market, it has all the attributes a major company should be interested in,” Hayden Locke, executive director at potash firm Emmerson Plc (LON:EML), told Proactive.

“I think the Anglo American approach is they are buying it relatively cheaply because there is still quite a lot of risk attached to this project.”

But Odey begs to differ.

According to the asset manager, Anglo American has not declared its offer as final “because there is a risk of both the deal failing at its current level and of an interloper at a later stage”.

In that case, Odey believes Anglo American would then be able to make a counter bid.

But the mining giant reiterated last week  that the £405mln offer is “fair and reasonable” and an active fertiliser mine would benefit the area significantly.

“We understand how important this project is to the community of North Yorkshire. If we are successful, we bring certainty that at the moment is not there for the project and the community,” chief executive Mark Cutifani told The Times.

Sirius chairman Russell Scrimshaw has made a similar point in backing the deal.

“[If not approved] would most likely result in shareholders losing all of their investment, as well as put the future of the entire project, and its associated benefits for the local area and the UK, at risk,” he said last month.

“We now face a stark choice,” Scrimshaw added, admitting the offer is not what any investor had hoped for.

The board has been recommending shareholders approve the deal, or else the company would go bust “within weeks”.

Combined, the directors own just below 2.5% of the company.

But the 85,000 individuals who have poured their lifetime savings in the project are faced with stark losses if their shares are sold for 5.5p each.

In response to the bid, some private shareholders have set up an action group to collect cash through bonds.

According to the ‘Fund Sirius Minerals’ group, the board carried out a strategic review concluding that £460mln was needed to open the mine in two years.

However, Sirius could not find that money and recommended shareholders approve the takeover by Anglo American instead.

“At no point during or following the strategic review did Sirius reach out to private investors to request their support with the funding, despite them owning 50% of the shares in Sirius,” the action group said.

“We believe that this was an error on the part of Sirius and a missed opportunity to raise the funds and protect shareholders’ existing investments.”

Shareholders are meeting on March 3 to decide on the deal.