(Repeats story from late Friday; no change to text)
By Jane Wardell and Saeed Azhar
SYDNEY/SINGAPORE Jan 11 Nathan Tinkler, whose
meteoric rise made him Australia's pre-eminent coal baron, is
set for a crash-landing as his main financial backer moves
closer to a sale of the former billionaire's stake in Whitehaven
Coal, sources said.
The sources told Reuters that China's Shenhua Group Corp.
Ltd and an unidentified Japanese firm have approached
Noonday, the asset arm of U.S. hedge fund manager Farallon
Capital Management LLC, about buying Tinkler's one-fifth stake
in Whitehaven, worth about A$690 million ($729.19 million).
A spokesman for Tinkler on the Whitehaven issue declined to
comment when contacted.
A consortium led by Noonday, which includes Credit Suisse
, extended A$600 million in loans to Tinkler pledged
against his stake, which has slumped in value from A$1.1 billion
at its peak after demand for coal from China weakened.
The loss of the Whitehaven stake, which represents the bulk
of Tinkler's wealth, would leave the former mine pit electrician
with private shelf companies that have no major assets.
It would also be an embarrassing reversal from just a few
months ago when Tinkler tried, but failed, to use his voting
power to oust most of the Whitehaven board, claiming
mismanagement. Tinkler attempted the board spill after dropping
a $5.5 billion bid in August to take the company private.
Tinkler, who turns 37 on Feb. 1, has already lost the title
of Australia's youngest billionaire almost as quickly as he got
it, shedding some A$2 million of paper value per day last year.
His sports and horse racing businesses are in trouble, as
are his private jet and helicopter, and he faces lawsuits from
the Australian Tax Office and private creditors over unpaid
debts and disputed share deals totalling at least A$50 million.
A source with direct knowledge of the Whitehaven issue said
"Tinkler is dead" on a financial front. Noonday could have acted
earlier, which would have hit Tinkler hard, but the firm is
protecting its reputation for not destroying its counterparties,
the source said.
Another source familiar with Tinkler's financial situation
said Noonday had no choice but to sell the 19.4 percent stake in
Whitehaven, Australia's biggest independent miner.
Separate sources ruled out Idemitsu Kosan Co Ltd or
Itochu Corp, which has a 10 percent stake in
Whitehaven's key Maules Creek project, as the prospective but so
far unidentified Japanese buyer partnering Shenshu.
Tinkler, who moved with his family to Singapore last year,
turned a A$1 million bet on an unfancied coal deposit in 2006
into a billion-dollar fortune in just two years.
The $5 billion merger of Tinkler's companies Aston Resources
and Boardwalk Resources with Whitehaven in April 2012 crowned a
rise built on Australian's once-in-a-century mining boom.
But cracks began to appear in his mining, sports and
horse-racing empire in the second half of 2012 as coal prices
began a downward spiral, appearing to confirm views by critics
that Tinkler had borrowed too much, too fast.
The embattled entrepreneur has successfully paid off debts
worth millions of dollars in recent months to stave off some
creditors and avoid public scrutiny of his finances through the
courts, including an Irish race horse stud owned by Sheikh
Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai.
But other major creditors, including the Australian Tax
Office, are continuing with a handful of cases against some of
his web of more than 40 companies. Tinkler is expected to give
evidence in at least one hearing next month.
Rubbing salt into the wound, his former close friend and
business associate Matthew Higgins is suing Tinkler for
royalties over the coal tenement deal that made his fortune.
Tinkler's Patinack Farm, until recently Australia's largest
horse racing business, has shrunk just five years after he
splurged A$18.5 million on a record 58 horses in a single week.
Almost 400 horses have been sold, including prize stallion
"All Too Hard".
His Hunter Sports Group, home to the Newcastle Knights rugby
league club and the Newcastle Jets A-League soccer team, has
until Jan. 21 to provide an independent audit of the Knights'
books to an industry board after delayed payments.
The once high-flying Tinkler is also scrambling to find
funds to refinance an $11.9 million (A$11.42 million) debt on
his private jet and helicopter before receivers assigned to his
private company TGHA Aviation sell them off to repay creditors.
($1 = 0.9463 Australian dollars)
(Additional reporting by Sonali Paul in MELBOURNE and Yuko
INOUE in TOKYO; Editing by Paul Tait)