Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg

Rio Receives Approaches for Last $1.5 Billion of Coal Assets

  • Company weighs options including sale for Hail Creek, Kestrel
  • Coking coal operations located in Australia’s Bowen Basin

Rio Tinto Group, which agreed last month to sell $2.45 billion of Australian assets, has received approaches for its remaining coal operations in the country, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The London-based company is considering options for its Hail Creek and Kestrel mines, including a potential sale, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the details are private. Its controlling stakes in the operations, which are located in Queensland state’s Bowen Basin and mainly produce coking coal used in steelmaking, could fetch as much A$2 billion ($1.5 billion), the people said.

Rio, the world’s second-biggest miner, has been divesting Australian coal assets since dismantling its energy division in 2015. The company is focusing on its most profitable and long-life operations in iron ore, copper and aluminum as China’s economy matures and growth cools, Chief Executive Officer Jean-Sebastien Jacques told investors at a London seminar in December.

The assets are Rio’s last producing coal mines globally after it agreed to sell its stakes in Australian thermal coal operations to an arm of China’s Yanzhou Coal Mining Co. for $2.45 billion. A formal sale process for Hail Creek and Kestrel may not begin until Anglo American Plc decides whether to sell its Australian coking coal mines, the people said.

Asset Sales

Rio declined to comment in an e-mailed statement. The company said last month it has agreed or completed at least $7.7 billion of asset sales since 2013. The stock fell 0.1 percent to close at 3,515 pence in London on Thursday.

Anglo American rejected a bid from Apollo Global Management LLC and Xcoal Energy & Resources LLC for its Moranbah and Grosvenor mines in Australia as too low, people familiar with the matter said in November. Other potential suitors for those assets included BHP Billiton Ltd., Warburg Pincus-backed mining investor Anemka Resources, Coronado Coal LLC and AMCI Capital LP, the people said at the time.

Rio owns 82 percent of Hail Creek and 80 percent of Kestrel, according to the company’s website. The two operations produced a combined 10 million metric tons of coking coal and 4.6 million tons of thermal coal last year, Rio said in a Jan. 17 filing.

“They seem to be intent on making an exit out of coal,” Investec Securities Ltd. analyst Hunter Hillcoat said by phone. “The good thing is that they’ve maintained the discipline to ensure that they can do so at a decent price.”

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