Aston and Whitehaven in merger talks

MINING magnate Nathan Tinkler is seeking a “merger of equals” between his 31% owned Aston Resources and Whitehaven Coal to form a $4.7 billion Gunnedah Basin coal power house.
Aston and Whitehaven in merger talks Aston and Whitehaven in merger talks Aston and Whitehaven in merger talks Aston and Whitehaven in merger talks Aston and Whitehaven in merger talks

Nathan Tinkler

Lou Caruana

Whitehaven confirmed today that early stage discussions are taking place between the two companies to create a new combined entity that could produce 25 million tonnes of semi soft coking coal by 2016.

“Whitehaven continues to investigate value enhancing opportunities on behalf of its shareholders,” Whitehaven managing director Tony Haggarty said.

“However, it is unclear at this stage as to whether the terms of any such potential transaction would be suitable to put to Whitehaven shareholders.”

The discussions with Aston are for “a potential merger of equals”, according to Whitehaven.

“These discussions are incomplete and there is no guarantee that agreement will be reached or that a formal proposal will eventuate,” Haggarty said.

“Further information will be announced and provided to shareholders should there be any material developments.”

Aston remains committed to its stated strategies and growth of the company on a standalone basis, it said in a statement.

"However, the Aston Board continues to explore other alternatives available to it to maximise value for Aston shareholders."

Both Aston and Whitehaven have been the subject of corporate manouvering as they seek to gain valuations that properly reflect what they feel is the inherent value of their prime position in the rapidly emerging Gunnedah basin.

Whitehaven is desperate to progress its Narrabri project despite labour shortages and a failed sale process earlier this year when bids by global mining companies could not satisfy its directors.

Tinkler replaced the chief executive of Aston and took on the role of chairman of the company last month, as well as engineering a board shuffle at Coalworks which his private Boardwalk Resources has a 19.9% stake in. The moves are seen as part of his process of readying the coal for a merger with other NSW coal players.

Aston, which owns 85% of the Maules Creek mine in the Gunnedah basin, is seen as an attractive asset for a global company looking for a piece of an emerging coal province.

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