* Glencore's biggest target since its listing
* Asian giants hungry for S.African coal
(Adds comments by Glencore, share price)
JOHANNESBURG/LONDON, SEPT 1 - South Africa's Optimum Coal
confirmed on Thursday a consortium including a unit of
commodity trading giant Glencore and prominent local
politician-turned tycoon Cyril Ramaphosa was interested in
buying it for about $1 billion.
This would be Glencore's most significant purchase since its
record share listing, when it sacrificed its fiercely protected
privacy to gain the balance sheet firepower for making
Optimum, a mid-size producer has export capacity and
reserves that make it attractive prey for big foreign companies
hoping to capitalise on Indian and Chinese demand.
The acquisition of South Africa's sixth-largest coal
producer would give Glencore access to two operating assets, the
Optimum Collieries and Koornfontein Mines, as well as 8 million
tons of coal export entitlements from the Richards Bay Coal
"Optimum's high quality, long life coal assets and
significant presence at Richards Bay Coal Terminal would be an
attractive addition to our existing South African coal
business," said Tor Peterson, director of the Coal/Coke
commodity department at Glencore.
"We expect strong Chinese and Indian imports and concerns
surrounding nuclear generation capacity to result in sustained
underlying demand for coal," he added.
Glencore, via its wholly owned subsidiary Piruto B.V., said
on Thursday that it and Lexshell 849 Investments Ltd, a company
owned by Ramaphosa, have entered into agreements to buy 43.51
percent of Optimum's shares.
The consortium plan to buy the remaining shares for 34 rand
each, a 26 percent premium on the coal producer's share price
before it released a cautionary statement on Aug. 17.
Shares in Optimum were up 1.4 percent at 33.55 rand, while
Glencore's shares were down 1.0 percent at 1405 GMT.
Glencore said the proposed transaction will preserve
Optimum's status in South Africa as a black-owned, black
(Reporting by Ed Stoddard and Julie Crust; Editing by Jon
Herskovitz and Greg Mahlich)
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