Noble plan to boost Gloucester stake

COMMODITIES trader Noble Group is moving in again to acquire Gloucester Coal shares.
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Macarthur's Middlemount operation.

Blair Price

Back in June 2009 the Hong Kong-based company acquired an 87.7% stake in the New South Wales coal producer through a cash takeover offer.

But a recent equity raising spree by Gloucester has watered down Noble’s stake to 57.39% at the end of August.

Gloucester announced that Noble subsidiary Osendo’s $12.60 cash takeover offer for Gloucester shares, made in April, was free from defeating conditions.

Eligible Gloucester shareholders have until 7pm on October 8 to participate in the offer.

Gloucester plans to use about $437.5 million of recently-raised funds for its Middlemount acquisition proposal to gain half of the emerging met coal mine in Queensland.

Once executed, the proposal gives Gloucester ownership of Noble’s 27.52% of the Middlemount joint venture with Macarthur Coal, plus the right to acquire a 2.84% stake in the JV from Macarthur for $8 million after a shipping milestone is reached.

The acquisition deal also gives Gloucester the option to acquire another 20% stake from Macarthur for $100 million within 18 months of completion of the wash plant at the site.

Macarthur increased the measured resources of the Middlemount mine in August by 192% to 89.3 million tonnes.

The Middlemount JV secured a long-term haulage contract with Pacific National in July, which will begin at the start of 2012 to support 3 million tonnes per annum of production.

Macarthur plans to kick off stage 2 development of the mine in mid-2011.

Once complete, this ramp-up is expected to lift raw production capacity of the coking and pulverised coal injection coal mine to 5.4Mtpa for the next 19 years.

Gloucester’s Stratford and Duralie open cut mines are based in the Gloucester Basin of New South Wales and produce semi-hard coking and thermal coal.

Gloucester shares closed down 19c to $12.51 yesterday afternoon.