Essar and Jindal in bidding war for Australian coal producer Rocklands

Essar Group, the multinational conglomerate and a leading global player in the steel, energy, power and communications, is embroiled in a bidding war with the $8-billion Jindal group to acquire Australian coke producer and explorer Rocklands Richfield Ltd.

Last month Jindal Steel and Power Ltd, which already has a 10.5-per cent stake in the Perth-based Rocklands, had made an offer of A$0.42 per share to acquire the remainder of the stake, valuing the company at $121.1 million.

Rocklands Richfield had tentatively agreed to the Jindal deal and company chairman Benny Wu, who is also the majority shareholder, agreed to sell his 9.9 per cent as well as recommend the takeover deal to the board.

But on Sunday, Essar launched a counterbid for Rocklands with an offer of A$0.50 per share, valuing the company at $128.5 million. Its offer is conditional on gaining a majority 60-per cent stake of Rocklands.

Rocklands Richfield said yesterday that it would call a board meeting to consider the merits of the competing bids and added that neither of the bids are preliminary proposals, which can be put forward to shareholders.

Currently, Australian coking coal is used in more than 50 per cent of the steel produced in India.