Bloomberg News

Aquila in Talks With Two Bidders for Australian Coal Asset

December 15, 2011

(Updates with valuation estimates in sixth paragraph.)

Dec. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Aquila Resources Ltd., selling assets to help fund a A$5.2 billion ($5.1 billion) iron ore project in Australia, said it’s in talks with two bidders for the sale of a coal asset.

“We remain in active dialog with two bidders and expect to announce a transaction in the near future,” Martin Alciaturi, general manager, finance and corporate of the Perth-based company, said today in a phone interview.

Aquila plans to develop the West Pilbara Iron Ore port, rail and mine project with joint venture partner AMCI Inc. as demand for steel in China grows. The company is selling three assets, including the Washpool coking coal project in Australia and the Avontuur manganese project in South Africa.

“A sale of Avontuur can be expected around late first quarter 2012,” Alciaturi said.

Aquila fell 4.1 percent to A$5.93 at the close of Sydney trading, taking losses this year to 34 percent. That compares with a 13 percent decline in the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index.

Washpool is valued at an average of A$269 million, based on assessments by eight resource analysts, and Avontuur at an average of A$285 million, according to four analyst estimates, Aquila said in an e-mailed note.

Talks with China Development Bank Corp. for a debt facility of more than $2 billion are nearing completion, Aquila, whose third-largest shareholder is China’s Baosteel Group Corp., said in a Nov. 8 presentation.

Aditya Birla Group, controlled by Indian billionaire Kumar Mangalam Birla, has made an offer to buy Washpool, two people familiar with the matter said Nov. 14.

Aquila has agreed to sell its remaining 24.5 percent stake in the Belvedere coal project in Australia to Vale SA, valued by Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc at A$300 million.

--With assistance from Angus Whitley in Sydney and George Smith Alexander in Mumbai. Editors: John Chacko, Andrew Hobbs

To contact the reporter on this story: Elisabeth Behrmann in Sydney at ebehrmann1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rebecca Keenan at rkeenan5@bloomberg.net


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