SYDNEY Aug 28 U.S. coal producer Peabody Energy
has pulled the $130 million sale of its Australian
Wilkie Creek mine to former billionaire Nathan Tinkler,
appearing to dash the young entrepreneur's hopes of a coal
Tinkler, a former pit electrician who became Australia's
youngest billionaire before losing it all when coal prices
crashed, had hoped to turn around his fortunes with the Wilkie
His Singapore-based Bentley Resources made a non-refundable
payment for the mine when it agreed to the cash-and-debt deal in
May but subsequently missed instalments, Peabody said.
Peabody said Bentley had been unable to meet its obligations
to close the deal and said it was "evaluating its alternatives"
for the closed coal mine in Queensland's Surat Basin.
The deal for $70 million cash plus assumption of $60 million
in liabilities had come as a surprise to bankers and analysts,
who knew that Peabody had wanted well over $500 million for the
mine when it was put on the block more than two years ago.
After failing to attract a buyer, Peabody closed Wilkie
Creek in December 2013, blaming weak coal prices, high costs and
the impact of Australia's carbon tax, which has since been axed.
Tinkler, who made his first big bet on an unloved A$15
million coal project in 2006, rode Australia's mining boom,
peaking in 2012 with the $5 billion merger of his Aston
Resources and Boardwalk Resources with Whitehaven Coal Ltd
But it all started to unravel in the second half of 2012 as
coal prices started to slide. Just over a year ago, the
38-year-old was forced to give up his stake in Whitehaven Coal,
the biggest source of his wealth, to pay off creditors.
Tinkler's beloved sports empire has also crumbled. He
relinquished control of the Newcastle Knights rugby league team
in May and put his Newcastle Jets A-League soccer club up for
sale last week. His thoroughbred horse racing and stud empire,
the largest in the country, is being sold by creditors.
Tinkler has maintained a low-profile since moving with
family in 2012 to Singapore from Australia's coal hub of
He is due to make a rare public appearance in Australia on
Friday when he gives evidence at an inquiry into political and
business corruption that has ensnared top officials from Prime
Minister Tony Abbott's Liberal Party.
In May, the police minister of Australia's most populous
state resigned after the New South Wales Independent Commission
Against Corruption linked him to a plot to illegally funnel
political donations from a property development group owned by
Property developers are banned from making political
donations in the state, and the scheme is believed to have been
devised to circumvent those rules in order to buy influence with
(Reporting by Jane Wardell and Sonali Paul; Editing by Ryan