Eskom hopes to sell South Dunes Coal Terminal stake before year-end

10th January 2008 By: Matthew Hill

South African power parastatal Eskom on Thursday confirmed that its large chunk of export coal capacity in the expanded Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) was on its disposal list, and it hoped to sell it this year.

FD Bongani Nqwababa said that the asset was no longer core to Eskom, and asked when the firm would sell it, he told Mining Weekly Online: "the sooner, the better".

"It depends when we find a suitable buyer at a suitable price," he added, speaking over the telephone.

Nqwababa stated that it was Eskom's "aspiration" to dispose of the 50% it held in the South Dunes Coal Terminal (SDCT) - part of RBCT - by the end of 2008. It was not core to the company's business of generating and distributing electricity, and was detracting from its human and financial capital.

The export entitlement that would then be up for grabs amounted to three-million tons a year, once RBCT's phase five expansion came on line in mid-2009.

This would certainly arouse interest from mining firms keen to profit from the booming export coal market.

‘No difficulty' selling

Global energy consultancy firm Wood MacKenzie coal analyst Xavier Prevost said that Eskom "would not have any difficulty" in finding a buyer for its entitlement.

What was unclear is how the disposal would take place.

Prevost, who was formerly chief minerals economist at South Africa's Department of Minerals and Energy, said that one possibility was that RBCT could buy Eskom's three-million tons capacity from SDCT.

Eskom would not have any difficulty in finding a buyer

The biggest single coal terminal in the world could then allocate the capacity to the companies that applied for coal export volumes at the port, but were turned down on account of there having been an oversubscription.

RBCT reported last year that it received 26 completed applications amounting to 26,85-million tons a year for the 19-million-tons-a-year expansion.

Since RBCT made the announcement, numerous coal juniors have expressed a strong interest in getting their hands on coal export capacity.

However, RBCT chairperson Kuseni Dlamini declined comment on what could become of Eskom's export capacity, saying that it was a matter for the State-owned firm and the other SDCT shareholders to decide.

SDCT chairperson Trevor McGiddy did not answer his phone when Mining Weekly Online called for comment.

Export coal from RBCT had been trading at around record prices for the past few weeks, international media have reported.