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Gloucester, Yanzhou in giant $8bn coal play: report
by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Dec 20, 2011

Trading in Australian miner Gloucester Coal was halted Tuesday following reports it was in talks with China's Yanzhou Coal Mining to create an Aus$8 billion (US$7.9 billion) coal giant.

In a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), Gloucester said it had requested trading of its shares be temporarily stopped "pending the release of an announcement by the company".

"The trading halt is necessary as Gloucester expects to make an announcement in connection with a possible change of control transaction, but is not yet in a position to make the announcement," it said.

"Gloucester would like the trading halt to remain in place until the commencement of trading on 22 December 2011, unless, before that time, Gloucester makes a further announcement."

In Hong Kong Yanzhou shares were also placed in trading halt Tuesday on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange pending what the company said was "the release of an announcement which is price sensitive in nature".

The developments come after The Australian Financial Review reported that China was attempting to create Australia's largest independent coal producer through a proposed merger between Gloucester and Yancoal Australia, a unit of Yanzhou.

State-owned Yanzhou had approached Gloucester in recent weeks and negotiations were at a preliminary stage, the financial tabloid said without citing sources.

Gloucester, a coal producer with exploration and mining operations in New South Wales and Queensland states, has a market capitalisation of about Aus$1.44 billion.

Any such deal, which comes amid consolidation in Australia's mid-tier coal sector, would require approval by the country's Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB).

Two years ago Yanzhou took over coal miner Felix Resources in a deal worth US$3.2 billion -- at the time the biggest by a Chinese firm in Australia.

Yanzhou had also reportedly been interested in Whitehaven Coal before that company announced a merger with fellow Australian miner, Aston Resources, to form an independent coal company worth Aus$5.10 billion.

Australia's coal industry is dominated by major global players BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata, but smaller firms are being targeted as competition for resources is stoked by rapid industrialisation in China and India.

US-based Peabody Energy, the world's largest private coal miner, snapped up Australia's Macarthur Coal in November in a deal worth almost Aus$5 billion.

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