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BEIJING/HONG KONG - China reiterated its opposition on Thursday to a European Union plan to limit airline carbon dioxide emissions and called for talks to resolve the issue a day after its major airlines refused to pay any carbon costs under the new law.
Peabody shelves Australian mine sale as buyers desert resources
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Peabody Energy Corp (BTU.N) has deferred the $500 million sale of an Australian mine after a near year-long process, sources said, joining deals worth almost $15 billion that have been pulled or delayed as weaker Chinese demand drives prices lower.
Peabody shelved the sale of its Wilkie Creek thermal-coal mine in Queensland state after failing to attract a worthwhile bid, two sources with direct knowledge of the sale said, asking not to be identified because the details were confidential.
"For Peabody, it was not a do-or-die sale. When they didn't see value in the bids, they decided it is worth waiting for a while," one source said.
Vic Svec, a spokesman for St Louis-based Peabody later told Reuters: "The Wilkie Creek sales process remains under way, with discussions with interested parties continuing." He did not elaborate.
The list of scrapped resources deals looks set to grow as prices for coal, iron ore and other industrial materials hit multi-year lows and even top miners scale back on some favored expansion projects.
The biggest casualties so far this year are the $5 billion failed privatization of Whitehaven Coal Ltd (WHC.AX) and the $4.5 billion canned auction of New Hope Corp Ltd (NHC.AX). Deals worth about a further $10 billion have not been launched as well, bankers and lawyers said.
Among other deals likely to join that list are Vale SA's (VALE5.SA) $500 million Integra Mine in New South Wales and BG Group PLC's (BG.L) $2 billion stake sale in its Curtis liquefied natural gas project, three separate sources said, declining to be identified as they are not authorized to speak to the media.
A spokesman for Vale declined to comment on market speculation, while BG did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Australian resources deals stand at $29.1 billion so far this year, or two-thirds lower than 2011, and are on course to hit a three-year low, according to Thomson Reuters data. The data shows the last five years averaged volumes of $57 billion in resources deals.
The sharp slowdown in mining deals affects everything from exploration projects to stock prices to jobs at struggling junior miners thirsty for capital. It is further evidence that the seven-year boom in commodity prices that Australia has enjoyed may have turned a corner.
China, Australia's top trade partner, has notched six straight quarters of slower growth and its factory purchasing managers' index dropped to a nine-month low in August, sending commodity prices falling.
Benchmark iron ore prices .IO62-CNI=SI have tumbled from a 2012 peak near $150 a tonne in April to below $90, hitting a near three-year low this week. Benchmark thermal-coal prices are at a 2-1/2 year low.
HOT BED NO LONGER
Just before the 2008 financial crisis, and not long after Asia recovered early the next year, Australia's mining market was a hot bed for M&A activity, with China a voracious buyer of Australian minerals projects.
Deals such as the sale of Macarthur Coal Ltd and Equinox Minerals Ltd were hotly contested affairs with dozens of bankers, lawyers and accountants poring over data rooms and multiple suitors forced to offer rich premiums.
This year started similarly, with strong interest in the assets put up by Vale, Peabody and BG. But that interest has now almost vanished.
Neither the BG or Vale deal will happen unless an "acceptable bid" emerges at the last minute, the sources said.
Last month, Chinese regulators forced Hanlong Group to cut a previously agreed deal for Australian iron ore miner Sundance Resources Ltd (SDL.AX) by a fifth to $1.4 billion, citing a weak share price and falling commodity prices.
PROLONGED SLUMP OR BLIP?
With deals drying up and share prices of miners tumbling to near record lows, the argument that cashed up companies and funds could scoop a bargain leading to a revival in deals volume like the period after 2009 gains some credence.
Japanese companies, helped by a strong yen, could feature in any revival, especially with Chinese and Indian companies less active.
Deals by Chinese companies have shrunk to $522 million so far this year, less than a tenth of the amount a year earlier, with bankers and lawyers saying Chinese companies are no longer eager participants in auctions.
"The current downturn in the commodity market is more severe than that of the post-Lehman crisis in that China's slowdown has now become visible," said a senior official at a top Japanese trading house.
"The momentum changed about six months ago, and since then, we've been having more offers for resources assets. We are planning to buy if there are good ones," said the official, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Japan's Marubeni Corp (8002.T) earlier this year agreed to buy a 12.5 percent stake in the Roy Hill iron ore project for A$1.5 billion. Mitsui & Co Ltd (8031.T) and Mitsubishi Corp (8058.T) acquired a 14.7 percent stake in Woodside Petroleum Ltd's (WPL.AX) Browse LNG project.
(Additional reporting by Yuko Inoue in TOKYO; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Ryan Woo)
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