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Glencore could sell Australian rail business

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World Coal,

Global mining giant, Glencore, has opened discussions over the sale of its Hunter Valley rail business, offering the buyer its nine trains and a guaranteed 40 million tpy coal haulage contract in the hopes of raising about US$1 billion.

According to the Australian Financial Review (AFR), which broke the story, Glencore exported about 51 million t of coal from its Hunter Valley operations – although there is some question over how much of that was carried by Glencore Train (GTrain).

Glencore is Australia’s largest thermal coal producer with annual output around 98 million t. It entered the rail business in 2010, along with rival BHP Billiton, after becoming frustrated with the incumbent freight operators.

Potential buyers include the two incumbents – Aurizon and Pacific National, which dominate coal haulage in Australia – as well as US-based Genesee & Wyoming, which owns GTrain’s British-based operator, Freightliner. Genesee and Wyoming bought Freightliner only last year for £492 million (about US$733 at current exchange rates).

Genesee & Wyoming already own and operate the rail line linking Adelaide to Darwin but attempts to increase its Australian presence have so far not been successful. The company also already hauls coal in North American, where it hauled 16 395 carloads of the fuel in February, and the UK, as well as metallic ores – including iron ore – and minerals in Australia.

Meanwhile, Glencore has committed to US$5 billion of asset sales to help reduce its mountain of debt, which stood at US$25.9 billion last September. The company reported a US$5 billion loss in 2015.

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