Glencore snaps up Rio Tinto’s Hail Creek coal mine and project for $1.7bn

Rio Tinto CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques wants the company to withdraw from the coal market. (Reuters)
Updated 21 March 2018
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Glencore snaps up Rio Tinto’s Hail Creek coal mine and project for $1.7bn

SYDNEY: Glencore is buying Rio Tinto’s Hail Creek coal mine and the Valeria coal project in Australia for $1.7 billion, tightening the Swiss trading and mining giant’s grip on coal as its rivals exit the industry.
The acquisition, announced by both companies on Tuesday, follows Glencore’s purchase of half of Rio Tinto’s Hunter Valley coal operations, also in Australia, for $1.1 billion last year in a deal with China’s Yancoal Australia.
Glencore is already the world’s biggest exporter of thermal coal used for power stations, and Hail Creek will give it a bigger stake in metallurgical coal used for steelmaking.
“You’ve got one of the few big companies, in Glencore, that is both willing and able and clearly likes coal strategically and has been acquiring these assets,” said Paul Gait, an analyst at Bernstein in London.
The sale consists of Rio’s 82 percent interest in the Hail Creek operating mine and its 71.2 percent interest in the Valeria project, the company said in a statement.
Rio Tinto made a strategic decision in 2017 to exit coal and focus on growth in iron ore, copper and its aluminum division.
On Tuesday it said it was still looking to sell its remaining Australian coal assets — the Kestrel coking coal mine and the Winchester South development project. Investors had expected the two mines and projects to be sold as a package.
“The best option to extract value for our shareholders is to go in a piecemeal approach,” Rio CEO Jean-Sébastien Jacques told reporters after a business event in Melbourne.
Analysts said the price for Hail Creek and Valeria looked good for Rio Tinto while not too expensive for Glencore.
“Given we all expected a $2 billion to $2.5 billion number for Hail Creek plus Kestrel and the other stuff, it’s a pretty big number,” said Shaw and Partners analyst Peter O’Connor in Sydney.
Gait said that he was bullish on metallurgical coal prices, now above $200 a ton, which would help justify the price Glencore agreed to pay.
“Glencore clearly have synergies in terms of both the operating and, physically, the marketing of these assets and when I look at the price that they’ve acquired these things for, it doesn’t seem to me to be exorbitant,” he said.
Rio Tinto said it planned to use the sale proceeds “for general corporate purposes,” however Jacques did not rule out returning the cash to shareholders
in future.
“You shouldn’t draw any conclusions. The next time we review it will be in August,” he told reporters, referring to the company’s next moves on capital management.
UBS has forecast that the sale of Hail Creek and Kestrel could help Rio hand back more than $9 billion to shareholders over the next 12 months.
The Hail Creek deal is subject to regulatory approvals and is expected to be completed in the second half of 2018, Rio said.
The remaining 18 percent of Hail Creek is owned by units of Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Corp, Marubeni Corp. and Sumitomo Corp, which all have rights to sell their stakes to Glencore, which it said in a statement would cost up to $340 million.
Glencore declined to comment further on the acquisition.


Libya’s NOC declares force majeure on El Sharara oilfield

Updated 18 December 2018
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Libya’s NOC declares force majeure on El Sharara oilfield

  • El Sharara — a 315,000 barrels a day field was taken over on Dec. 8 by groups of tribesmen, armed protesters and state guards demanding salary payments
  • Some government officials favor offering quick cash to the occupiers to make them leave, but NOC officials have warned that would set a precedent

TRIPOLI: Libya’s state oil firm NOC has declared force majeure on operations at the country’s largest oilfield, El Sharara, a week after it announced a contractual waiver on exports from the field following its seizure by protesters.

The 315,000 barrels a day field, located in the south of the North African OPEC member country, was taken over on Dec. 8 by groups of tribesmen, armed protesters and state guards demanding salary payments and development funds.

Officials have been unable to persuade the groups, who have been camping on the field, to leave the vast, partly unsecured site amid disagreements how best to proceed, workers on the field said.

Some government officials favor offering quick cash to the occupiers to make them leave, but NOC officials have warned that would set a precedent and encourage more blockades, workers at the oilfield say.

NOC has described the occupiers as militia trying to get on the payroll of field guards, a recurring theme in Libya where many see seizing NOC facilities as an easy way to get heard by the weak state authorities.

Production will only restart after “alternative security arrangements are put in place,” NOC said in a statement.

Operations at the smaller El Feel oilfield continued as normal, engineers said.

“Production at Sharara was forcibly shut down by an armed group — Battalion 30 and its civilian support company — that claimed to be providing security at the field, but which threatened violence against NOC employees,” NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanallah said in the statement.

His comments came after the chief of staff of the Tripoli-based government, Abdulrahman Attweel, criticized some of Sanalla’s previous comments about the protesters as “irresponsible.”

“These people (guards) were there to protect the field without salaries and without any attention to them and their daily needs, not in terms of accommodation, supply, transportation and communication,” Attweel told Al-Ahrar channel late on Monday.

Their demands were legitimate, he said, echoing comments by some southern lawmakers and mayors demanding more jobs and development for the neglected region.
The blockade has been complicated by the presence of tribesmen, who have argued against quick cash payments saying they want funds to improve hospitals and other services, which might take time to deliver.

The shutdown of the El Sharara has not affected the El Feel oilfield, also located in the south. It continued to pump around 70,000 barrels a day, field engineers said.
Its exports were being routed via the Melittah oil and gas port, which like El Feel belongs to a joint venture NOC has with Italian energy company Eni, another engineer said.

A spokesman for NOC did not respond to a request for comment.
El Sharara crude is normally transported to the Zawiya port, also home to a refinery. NOC runs the field with Spain’s Repsol , France’s Total, Austria’s OMV and Norway’s Equinor, formerly known as Statoil.