Rio at a glance
The company of Indonesian billionaire Anthoni Salim is believed to be scanning the Australian market for coalmining assets, with some questioning whether it could end up with some of Rio Tinto’s portfolio on Australia’s east coast, thought to be worth about $2 billion.
Mr Salim’s wealth is now estimated to be $US5.4bn by Forbes, and he is Indonesia’s 50th richest person.
The Salim Group is Indonesia’s largest conglomerate, with companies such as the world’s largest instant noodle producer, Indofood Sukses Makmur, and major palm oil plantations.
His conglomerate previously bought into Goodman Fielder and owns interests in telecommunications, retail, property and banking.
It is involved in a number of projects in West Bengal, an eastern state of India.
While it is understood that talks are not afoot between Rio and The Salim Group, it would not be the first time it has embarked on a deal with Rio Tinto.
The group previously acquired its Mt Pleasant mine for $US224m.
The Rio coal assets are for sale through investment bank Deutsche, although it is understood that no official sales process has been launched.
On offer are the company’s NSW thermal coalmines which constitute its Coal & Allied business, although sources have said that other coking coal mines could be added to the mix.
That is still to be determined.
Despite the interest in Australian coalmines from The Salim Group, sources still maintain that China-backed Yancoal is best placed to secure the Rio portfolio, with the company believed to be receiving advice from JPMorgan.
JPMorgan was last week the investment bank that advised South32 on its acquisition of the Metropolitan coalmine from Peabody Energy.
More parties recently joined Yancoal and Glencore in a contest to buy the Rio portfolio after surging commodity prices made it easier for suitors to secure attractive fundraising packages, sources said.
The coking coal price has surged to $US271 a tonne, up from the 2015 average of $US91 a tonne, while thermal coal is $US112 a tonne, compared with last year’s average of $US68.
Rio is considering a sale at a time that thermal coal remains a less favourable form of power supply due to environmental concerns, as it tries to keep its debt levels in check.
Listed Australian goldminer St Barbara is potentially selling its Simberi goldmining operation in Papua New Guinea through Hong Kong-based advisory firm Cutfield Freeman.
It is widely predicted that the asset will sell to a Chinese group for a price close to $100m.
MMG, meanwhile, is selling its Golden Grove copper and zinc mine in Western Australia through Goldman Sachs, hoping for well over its $US220m book value. Groups such as Sandfire Resources and Mt Gibson may be interested.