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Whitehaven to buy Aston Resources for AU$2.5 billion

World Coal,

Whitehaven Coal has agreed a AU$2.5 billion takeover of Aston Resources and a local coal explorer in a move that would create Australia’s largest independent coal miner. The new company could become an attractive takeover proposition in itself given the current interest in Australia’s natural resources.

Aston owns 75% of the Maules Creek project, which lies close to Whitehaven's mines in New South Wales. With Aston's assets, Whitehaven production will soar from 6 million tpa in 2012 to 25 million tpa by 2016. About 60% of output will be metallurgical coal to feed Asia’s growing appetite for steel as industrialisation and urbanisation continue apace across the continent.

Investors praised the deal, as there should be attractive savings from merging Whitehaven and Aston assets: "It could make them a juicier target," Peter Chilton, an analyst at Constellation Capital Management, told Reuters. "It's very logical to combine all the assets, because they're all next door to each other." Tony Haggarty, Whitehaven’s managing director, who will lead the combined group, put the potential savings at "several hundred" millions of dollars in benefits, mostly from better utilisation of port and rail facilities and marketing opportunities from blending Whitehaven and Aston coals.

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