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AMP, Hastings, Asciano Said to Mull Bids for Newcastle Port

Newcastle Port
Coal carriers are loaded at Newcastle Port, in Newcastle, north of Sydney, Australia. Photographer: Ian Waldie/Bloomberg

AMP Ltd., Hastings Funds Management Ltd. and a group led by Asciano Ltd. are weighing bids for a long-term lease for Australia’s Newcastle port, which may fetch as much as A$700 million ($617 million), said five people with knowledge of the matter.

Macquarie Group Ltd. and its Infrastructure and Real Assets fund is also studying financial information for the port, the world’s biggest export harbor for coal used in power stations, said the people, asking not to be identified as the details are private. Asciano is bidding together with a real estate investment unit of Deutsche Bank AG, the people said. Indicative bids are due early next month.

New South Wales, the state that owns Newcastle port, in June announced plans to lease it out to raise funds for other infrastructure projects. The state government in April sold 99-year leases for Port Botany and Port Kembla for A$5.1 billion to a group including IFM Investors Pty and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

Imre Salusinszky, a spokesman for New South Wales Treasurer Mike Baird, declined to comment. The government was “pleased with the response from potential bidders,” Baird said in a Dec. 13 statement. Spokesmen for AMP, Macquarie, Asciano and Hastings declined to comment.

Glencore Xstrata Plc, the world’s biggest exporter of thermal coal, Peabody Energy Corp. and Rio Tinto Group are among companies that ship coal from Newcastle to countries such as Japan, South Korea and China. The energy fuel represents more than 90 percent of goods sent through the port, according to its website.

Schools Purchase

A record 150.5 million metric tons of coal was exported from Newcastle last year, up from 133.8 million tons in 2012, New South Wales said in a Jan. 10 statement.

Hastings, a Melbourne-based infrastructure manager, and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan in May won the right to lease the Sydney Desalination Plant for 50 years for A$2.3 billion. Hastings is a unit of Westpac Banking Corp.

The AMP Capital unit of Austrlia’s largest life insurer and pension manager owns a stake in Melbourne Airport and in November agreed to buy 11 schools in Victoria state from Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc. Asciano is Australia’s largest port operator.

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