Glencore eyes South Africa's Optimum Coal

Optimum Coal (OPT) that was once owned by mining giant BHP Billiton, has received takeover offers from unnamed third parties, a day after Reuters reported that commodities trader Glencore was eyeing the South African coal mining and exploration group.

OPT, South Africa's sixth-largest coal producer and the country's fourth largest exporter of thermal coal, responding to media reports today acknowledged it had received "unsolicited, non-binding expressions of interest from third parties to acquire a controlling interest in Optimum."

Although the Johannesburg-based coal miner did not reveal the suitors or the bid price, OPT currently has a market capitalisation of around $1 billion.

OPT was sold by BHP Billiton in 2008 for an undisclosed sum to local black economic empowerment company Optimum Coal Holdings (OCH) which, was bankrolled by AMCI Capital-one of the world's largest energy-focused private equity fund.

OPT's operations include Optimum Collieries, a large opencast and underground mining complex comprising four coal production areas, and Koornfontein Mines – both in the Mpumalanga coalfield.

Optimum Collieries is the third-largest opencast coal mine in South Africa, having a life of 21 years with coal resources of 719 million tons and reserve base in excess of 257 million tons.