SYDNEY (Reuters) - Glencore (GLEN.L) on Monday said it was looking to sell a second Australian coal mine, part of the Swiss-based resource giant’s rethink on how it deploys capital as its reins in debt and commodities prices rise.
Together with its Japanese joint venture partners, Itochu Corp (8001.T) and Sumitomo Corp (8053.T), Glencore said it would start a “sales process” for its Rolleston mine, which produces thermal coal used for making electricity. The mine, though, is geographically removed from Glencore’s main collieries, leaving it less economic from a shipping standpoint.
Merrill Lynch has been appointed as sole financial adviser on any deal, Glencore said.
In May, Glencore also put its wholly-owned Tahmoor coking coal mine in Australia up for sale, citing a desire to concentrate on mining thermal coal.
Glencore isn’t the only Australia seller of coal mines.
Attempts by Rio Tinto (RIO.AX) (RIO.L) and Wesfarmers Ltd (WES.AX) to offload mines are attracting scores of interested buyers as private equity and public companies compete for a foothold in one of the hottest sectors of the commodity market.
Glencore’s plan to jettison the Rolleston mine comes as the company under Chief Executive Ivan Glasenberg conducts a global review of its business, with an eye on divestments to better deploy capital into other investments while paying off large chunks of debt.
“This decision is part of Glencore’s ongoing programme to optimise its portfolio and redeploy capital into other opportunities,” Glencore said in a statement. It didn’t say how much it hoped to raise in the sale of a mine it has come to regard as a geographically stranded asset.
Glencore owns 75 percent of the Rolleston mine, with its Japanese partners each holding 12.5 percent. Both minority partners said they also intend to sell their interest.
The Rolleston mine is located in Australia’s Bowen Basin in Queensland state, 1,500 km (900 miles) from other Glencore mines in neighbouring New South Wales state. That makes the blending of Rolleston coal with supply from other mines to meet individual customer requirements an uneconomic process.
Executives involved in mining finance said a favourable longer-term industry view of Asian demand for thermal coal, used in power generation, could attract interest in Rolleston. The executives declined to be identified because they weren’t authorised to speak to media.
“Thermal coal prices in excess of $100 a tonne on the back of strong demand from the Asian market has seen the industry gain momentum,” said CLSA mining analyst Andrew Driscoll.
Last month Glencore agreed to pay $1.1 billion for a 49 percent stake in Australian coal mines that China-backed Yancoal Australia (YAL.AX) is acquiring from Rio Tinto. That deal will add 7 million tonnes of thermal coal a year to Glencore’s coal division.
Reporting by James Regan; Additional reporting by Yukan Obayashi in TOKYO; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell