Mumbai/Sydney: India-focused British miner Vedanta Resources is considering a bid for New Hope Corp, the $5 billion Australian coal miner that has put itself up for auction, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.
Vedanta, controlled by billionaire Anil Agarwal, has held discussions with banks and is expected to appoint advisors “soon”, said the sources, who declined to be named as they were not authorised to speak to the media.
“We are yet to begin formal talks,” one source told Reuters.
Spokesmen for Vedanta and New Hope were not immediately available for comment.
New Hope is among the last few major coal companies left in resource-rich Australia after a flurry of recent takeovers consolidated the industry.
Among those interested in the Queensland-based thermal coal producer are Indian conglomerates Tata Group, Aditya Birla Group and JSW Steel, China’s Yanzhou Coal Mining Co Ltd and London-listed Xstrata.
Energy-starved Indian companies are scouting for overseas coal assets to run thermal power plants to feed their operations or for utilities.
In September, GVK Power & Infrastructure acquired a majority stake in Australian coal mines and a port and rail project owned by heiress Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Group for $1.26 billion.
A month earlier GMR Infrastructure, with interests in airports, energy and highways, had signed a pact to acquire a 30% stake in Indonesia’s Golden Energy Mines.
Vedanta is in the final stages of completing its long-awaited $6 billion deal to take control of oil explorer Cairn India, after securing approval from the Indian government and shareholders.
The deal has inflated the group’s net debt, which stood at $7.2 billion during the first half of this fiscal year.
Last week, Vedanta said its underlying attributable profit for the first half dropped more than 34% to $186.3 million on the back of losses in its aluminium business and a weakening rupee.
Coal prices have been stable at more than $100 a tonne for most of the past year, aside from brief spikes after the Queensland floods and Japanese tsunami.