Macarthur Coal has become the hottest mining property in Australia, with more buyers throwing their hats in the ring for the complex buyout of the coal miner, which has continued to reject all proposals and is sticking to its plan of taking over its smaller domestic rival Gloucester Coal.
The board of Macarthur today said in a statement that the extraordinary general meeting of Macarthur's shareholders scheduled for Monday 12 April 2010 will be postponed by a week to Monday 19 April 2010.
The postponement came after Macarthur learnt that Swiss miner, Xstrata, the world's largest exporter of thermal coal, is also looking to make a bid for it and had approached one of its major shareholders for support.
In the statement Macarthur said, "Macarthur advises that it has become aware that an investment bank representing Xstrata has approached one of the major shareholders in Macarthur."
Without giving any details, Macarthur however said that the talks were "preliminary and highly conceptual."
The Brisbane-based miner said, ''Macarthur has also received feedback from a number of shareholders that they have had insufficient time to properly review the information that has been recently released by Macarthur,'' therefore ''The Board considers that in aggregate these circumstances warrant a decision to provide further time for shareholders to digest the information.''
After Macarthur rejected a sweetened $3.27-billion unsolicited bid this week by US coal miner Peabody Energy (See: Macarthur Coal rejects Peabody Energy's sweetened $3.27 billion takeover offer), the Brisbane-based coal miner today rejected a $3.44-billion offer from fellow local coal miner New Hope Corporation.
Macarthur's major shareholders collectively hold around 47 per cent of the company's stock, with China's Citic Resources Holdings holding 22.4 per cent, ArcelorMittal, the world's biggest steelmaker, owing16.6 per cent and South Korea's steel maker Posco holding 8.3 per cent.
Analysts believe that Xstrata may have approached Citic Resources since it is the single largest shareholder, but it would also require the approval of both ArcelorMittal and Posco, which are highly unlikely to agree to a deal for anything less than $A20 per share as they had acquired the stake at a high price during the peak of the commodities boom in 2008.
Macarthur is Australia's second-biggest coal miner and supplier of low volatile pulverised injection coal to steel mills in Asia, Europe and Brazil through its 73.3 per cent stake in Coppabella Mine and Moorvale Mine and a 74.66 per cent stake in the Middlemount Mine project.
To thwart Peabody's bid for Macarthur, Hong Kong-based commodities trader Noble Group, which holds an 87.7-per cent stake in Gloucester Coal, proposed this week acquiring the rest of Gloucester for $12.60 a share in cash in order to thwart any takeover of Macarthur, since the bids by Peabody and New Hope are contingent on Macarthur not going ahead with a deal with Gloucester or Noble.
Noble will get a 24.6-per cent stake in Macarthur if the deal to sell Gloucester Coal to Macarthur goes through and it will also get a 25 per cent stake in Macarthur's Middlemount coal mine.
It will also get an option to increase its stake in the Middlemount mine to 50 per cent, which would give it the right to sell 100 per cent of the output of the mine for life.
Peabody had also approached the Australian Takeover Panel asking it to stop Macarthur shareholders vote on 12 April, which was rejected by the panel yesterday.
The frenzied race for the control of Macarthur by US coal miner Peabody Energy, the world's largest private-sector coal company, and New Hope, which exports around 65 per cent of its coal production to the Asia Pacific markets, Xstrata and Noble Group comes after coal used by steel makers has gone over the roof to a record high this year.
Xstrata said at the beginning of this month that it has finalised thermal coal contract pricing with a major power utility customer in Japan for the 12 month period beginning 1 April 2010 at $98 per tonne, while South Korea's steel maker finalised with a Australian miner for semi-soft coal at $167 per tonne, which is a whopping 109 per cent increase to last year price of $80 a tonne.
According to analysts forecast, coking coal prices will go up even higher to approximately $125 a tonne in this April-June quarter.