(Fixes link in paragraph 2)
* Analysts say smaller producers need to consolidate
* Shares up over 6 percent
* S.African miners have been targets this year
By Ed Stoddard
JOHANNESBURG, Aug 26 Optimum Coal stood
at the centre of bid interest in South African assets on Friday,
confirming receipt of more than one takeover approach a day
after news that commodities trader and miner Glencore
Shares in Optimum leapt 6 percent in morning trade. Glencore
plans to strike a deal using South African businessman Cyril
Ramaphosa as a partner, sources close to the deal said on
The move would take advantage of a recent drop in sector
share prices. It could also become the biggest acquisition since
listing in May for Glencore, already a major player in both
South Africa and the global coal trade.
Optimum's share price at 0800 GMT was almost 6 percent
higher at 31.75 rand, its highest level in about four months
according to Thomson Reuters data.
Optimum had issued a cautionary statement earlier this
month, alerting investors to circumstances which could affect
its share price, but had denied having been approached by any
"The stock was below 23 rand in early August so you would
see why there is lots of interest at those levels. That would
have been a good time to pounce. The first cautionary
announcement came out on Aug. 17, and the guys may have looked
then and said this looks juicy," said Sasha Naryshkine, an
analyst with Vestact in Johannesburg.
"It will depend now on what kind of a premium they are
willing to pay."
Optimum, South Africa's sixth-largest coal producer, said
in a statement it had received "unsolicited, non-binding
expressions of interest from third parties to acquire a
controlling interest in Optimum".
At current prices, Optimum has a market capitalisation of
around $1 billion.
The sources told Reuters on Thursday that Glencore and
Ramaphosa, a former politician and trade unionist turned
businessman, were talking to Optimum shareholders and were
preparing to make an announcement.
Shareholders in Optimum confirmed they had received an
offer from the commodities giant and Ramaphosa, whose unlisted
Shanduka Resources owns 30 percent of Shanduka Coal, a venture
Shanduka Coal, 70 percent owned by Glencore, has until
recently been Glencore's vehicle for investment in coal mining
in South Africa.
OCH, formerly owned by miner BHP Billiton , will
produce 13.7 million tonnes of coal in 2011, up from 13.6
million in 2010.
Glencore's deep pockets and Ramaphosa's influence would make
for a formidable bid which could nullify any opposition arising
from unions or shareholders.
Glencore, long an opportunistic buyer, said this week it
sees bargain-hunting opportunities in the wake of current market
turbulence and will pursue deals aggressively, as share prices
have dropped and private companies are less optimistic about
Glencore has also said it expects firm demand from emerging
economies like China and India, top coal consumers.
The world's largest commodities trader, led by South
African former coal trader Ivan Glasenberg, is already the
world's largest participant in the supply of seaborne steam coal
and is a heavyweight player in South African coal.
South African miners have been in the sights of big foreign
companies this year keen on the continent's rich mineral
resources. China's Jinchuan Group won a bidding war against
Brazil's Vale in July for South African-listed cobalt
and copper producer Metorex .
Growing Chinese and Indian demand has put coal centres
stage in the energy sector. South Africa is a useful swing
producer of thermal coal which can ship both to Europe and to
the U.S. Pacific coast.
Bu analysts have said smaller coal miners face intense
pressure to consolidate as they battle ageing mines, unclear
regulation and woefully inadequate rail and port export
capacity, making them ripe for cash-flush partners.
(Additional reporting by Helen Nyambura in Johannesburg and
Clara Ferreira-Marques and Jacqueline Cowhig in London; Editing