Itochu, Mitsui in the race to buy Anglo American's manganese assets

Japanese trading houses Itochu Corp and Mitsui & Co are separately in the race to buy Anglo American Plc's manganese assets in Australia and South Africa, Bloomberg yesterday reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

The London-listed miner is weighing offers for its 40 per cent stake in a manganese joint venture with South32 Ltd, the report said.

BHP Billiton spin-off, South32 has the first right to purchase the stake in the Samancor joint venture, which may fetch as much as $700 million, and may decide to pre-empt an agreement with another party, the report added.

South32 inherited BHP Billiton's 60 per cent stake in Samancor - the world's largest producer of manganese, used in stainless steel.

Samancor operates mines and smelters in Australia and South Africa.

Its assets include the Hotazel mine in South Africa, which holds one of the world's largest deposits of manganese, the GEMCO mining operations at Groote Eylandt in Australia's Northern Territory and the TEMCO alloy plant in Tasmania.

Anglo American had earlier said that it would divest assets worth around $4 billion in order to cut net debt to under $10 billion by the end of the year.

The miner posted a $5.6 billion full-year loss in 2015 and credit ratings agencies Standard & Poor's, Fitch, and Moody's cut the company's rating to junk in February.

This week it agreed to sell its niobium and phosphates assets to China Molybdenum for $1.5 billion in cash. (See: Anglo American to sell niobium and phosphates assets to China Molybdenum for $1.5 bn)

Last month it agreed to sell its 70-per cent stake in the Foxleigh metallurgical coal mine in Queensland, Australia to a consortium led by Taurus Fund Management.

The miner has been also selling off its coal and other assets in order to focus on copper, platinum and diamonds.