Anglo considers options to sell coal assets after fire

Grosvenor mine’s power stations. Credit: Anglo American

Anglo American Plc is considering options to push ahead with a sale of its coal business after an explosion at its flagship Australian mine, including the possibility of selling individual assets or excluding the damaged operation from a potential deal.

The plan to exit coal formed part of a dramatic restructuring program announced earlier this year by Anglo, as the London-based miner was trying to fend off a takeover pursuit by larger rival BHP Group.

While it also intends to spin off its platinum unit and either sell or separate diamond miner De Beers, the company had been planning to tackle the coal sale first, seen internally and by investors as the most easily achievable part of the restructuring. Anglo has said it already received interest in the assets and a deal for the highly attractive coking coal mines in Australia would have demonstrated early progress to investors looking for signs that Anglo’s go-it-alone approach offers better value than the rejected bid from BHP.

The plan was thrown into question on Saturday when an methane explosion deep underground started a huge fire at Anglo’s Grosvenor coal mine in Queensland. It’s likely to be several months before the company is able to safely reenter the mine, let alone restart mining.

However, the company is reluctant to abandon the sales process despite the setback, given the strong early interest it received in the mines, according to people familiar with the matter. Before the accident, Anglo had been planning to kick off a sales process in the coming months with a view to reaching a deal by the end of the year, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private information.

While the company had not laid out how it was going to sell the unit, its options now could include selling the rest of the coal business without Grosvenor or selling the other mines individually, the people said, emphasizing that no final decisions have been made.

While excluding Grosvenor from a sale would result in a lower price, Anglo is keen to move forward and demonstrate that it’s making progress after its board unanimously rejected the approach from BHP in May. The world’s biggest miner is currently restricted from making a fresh approach for Anglo but a six-month regulatory standstill will expire later this year.

A spokesman for Anglo declined to comment.

Anglo rose as much as 2.1% in London to 2,447 pence. The stock slumped as much as 4% Monday after news of the explosion.

Besides a sale of its coal business, Anglo is also working on plans to spin off its majority stake in Anglo American Platinum Ltd. and exit its ownership of De Beers. The company would prefer to wait for a recovery in the diamond market, the people said, as the internal view at the company is that De Beers should command a price that reflects its status as a trophy asset.

(By Thomas Biesheuvel and Dinesh Nair)


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