* Import tariffs of between 3 and 6 pct applicable from Oct.
* Australia, Russia exports seen hit; Indonesia to be exempt
* China thermal coal futures, China shares of top coal firms
(Adds analyst's comments, coal futures and coal firms' shares)
By Fayen Wong
SHANGHAI, Oct 9 China, the world's top coal
importer, will levy import tariffs on the commodity after nearly
a decade, in its latest bid to prop up ailing domestic miners
who have been buffeted by rising costs and tumbling prices.
The sudden move by China to levy import tariffs of between 3
percent and 6 percent from October 15 is set to hit miners in
Australia and Russia - among the top coal exporters into the
Traders said Indonesia, the second-biggest shipper of the
fuel to China, will be exempt from the tariffs since a free
trade agreement between China and the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations (ASEAN) means Beijing has promised the signatory
nations zero import tariffs for some resources.
A 3 percent import tariff imposed on lignite last year did
not include Indonesia.
"China is clearly moving to protect its local miners. Given
that the tariff also covers coking coal, Australia, being the
top supplier to China, is likely going to be the most affected,"
said Serene Lim, an analyst at Standard Chartered.
The Ministry of Finance said in a statement on Thursday that
import tariffs for anthracite coal and coking coal will return
to 3 percent, while non-coking coal will have an import tax of 6
percent. Briquettes, a fuel manufactured from coal, and other
coal-based fuels will see their import tariffs return to 5
Import taxes for all coals, with the exception of coking
coal, was at 6 percent prior to 2005 before they were scrapped
in 2007. Coking coal import taxes were set at 3 percent before
being abolished in 2005.
News of the tariff lifted China's thermal coal futures
by 1.9 percent to 529.2 yuan ($86.33) a tonne, while
China-listed shares in top miners such as Shenhua Energy
and China Coal Energy also rose.
Chinese traders were only willing to pay about $65 a tonne
for coal with heating value of 5,500 kcal/kg (NAR) on a landed
basis before the tariff was announced, against offers of about
$66 a tonne by Australians, traders said.
"With the latest tax, Chinese can only offer around $62,
which means Australian sellers will need to cut prices by about
$3.50-$4 a tonne," said a senior trader at major international
"It is game over for Australian coal."
The latest effort to limit imports comes after nearly a year
of intense lobbying by China's top miners for Beijing to stem
the flood of cheap supplies that have inundated the domestic
market and dragged local prices to a six-year low.
The China National Coal Association, which had submitted
proposals to reduce domestic output, reduce the tax burden and
regulate imports, had urged Beijing to act swiftly to support
the besieged sector, where 70 percent of the miners were making
losses and more than half were owing wages.
On a broader level, the persistent slump in coal prices has
put a severe financial strain on coal-dependent provinces such
as Inner Mongolia, Shanxi and Shaanxi, which are already
struggling with high debts and a weakening property market.
China said last month it will ban the import and local sale
of coal with high ash and sulphur content starting from 2015 in
a bid to tackle air pollution. But Australian miners were left
unscathed by that regulation as the most stringent standards did
not apply to power plants.
Separately, trade sources said Beijing has also asked its
state-owned power utilities to cut coal imports by as much as 40
million tonnes from September to December, a move that is set to
hit imports in the fourth quarter.
China, also the world's top coal producer and consumer, saw
imports rise 13 percent from a year ago to 327.1 million tonnes
in 2013, accounting for about 10 percent of the country's total
(1 US dollar = 6.1299 Chinese yuan)
(Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)