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India’s Essar in the race for Indonesian coal mine

India’s thriving economy is sending its energy majors overseas to fuel the nation’s energy needs, with many companies looking as far as European markets to get their supplies of fuel. In the past year or so, many Indian companies like NTPC and Reliance Power have struck deals for the supply of coal to meet the needs of their thermal plants.Reports indicate that South Africa shipped an estimated 35% of its thermal coal exports, amounting to 2.1 million metric tonnes, to India in July, almost twice that of June’s 1.2 million tonnes.Coal India Ltd, which produces 80% of India’s domestic coal, has set aside $2 billion for global investments in coal mines. Little surprise then, that India’s Essar Group has thrown its hat in the ring to be amongst the initial 10 bidders to have shown interest in picking up a stake in Indonesia’s GPK coal project.Last year, Australian miner, Kangaroo Resources Ltd picked up 84.82% of the mine for about $2 million. Since then, there have been many global suitors who have expressed interest in picking up a stake in the firm.The Essar Group first showed some signs of interest in the Indonesian firm in February 2010, when Kangaroo appointed Macquarie in Singapore to manage the bid process. Things did not materialise then, but are said to be firming up now.The Indonesian mine has a total thermal coal resource of 248 million metric tons, according to the company’s website. Around July this year, Kangaroo Resources, which owns several other projects, started contemplating a potential sale of the mine. Macquarie Capital, which is conducting the sales process, announced the names of the initial bidders, mostly from Asia.On its part, the Essar Group, which is controlled by Indian billionaire brothers Shashi and Ravi Ruia, are keen to shore up their reserves to help end blackouts in India.At a recent conference in Mumbai, Essar Energy said the first phase of its power generation projects were on schedule and on budget. The first phase is expected to increase capacity to 6,100 megawatts by the end of 2012. The company aims to increase capacity to 11,470 megawatts by 2014 from the current 1,220 megawatts.Essar Energy vice chairman Prashant Ruia told reporters on a conference call: ``We have seen tremendous interest in the growth of India’s energy demand and our strategy is well-placed to meet that growing need.’’The vice chairman was speaking at the firm’s  first earnings report, since the power and oil and gas exploration company was spun out of Indian conglomerate Essar Group, in a $1.85 billion initial public offering earlier this year.Recently, Essar Energy, finalised a deal to buy Aries coal mines in Indonesia, following the acquisition of the US-based Trinity Coal (200 million tons reserves) for $600 million.Incidentally, India imports nearly 25% of its gas needs. Analysts have forecast that this is expected to rise to 50% by 2020. Though India has the world’s fourth-largest thermal coal reserves, there is bound to be a shortfall of 200 million tons by 2012, between demand (730 million tons) and supply.

20 Monday September 2010  8:44

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