Mongolia parliament considers IPO for giant coal mine

ULAANBAATAR, June 21 (Reuters) - The Mongolian government on Thursday submitted plans to parliament to list a chunk of the state-owned company that holds the giant Tavan Tolgoi coal mine.

The potential initial public offering comes as the country looks to kickstart the long-delayed development of one of the world’s largest coking coal deposits, with international coal prices picking up after years in the doldrums.

Mining minister Sumiyabazar Dolgorsuren presented a bill to parliament proposing the sale of up to 30 percent of the project on domestic and international stock markets, according to a notice on Mongolia’s official parliamentary website. The potential value of an IPO was not mentioned.

The government said in a statement on Wednesday that it would also speed up plans to build a $1 billion coal-fired power plant near the mine, as well as a 247-kilometre railway that would help deliver Tavan Tolgoi’s coal to the Chinese border.

“The government believes that the economic benefits of the deposit will increase,” it said in the statement.

Tavan Tolgoi, in the Gobi desert about 250 kilometres (155 miles) from the Chinese border, has an estimated 7.4 billion tonnes of reserves and is considered one of Mongolia’s flagship mining projects. It is run by state-owned Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi.

However, it has been held back by poor infrastructure and weak coal prices as well as disputes over the role foreign investment should play in Mongolia’s economic development.

As early as 2011, Mongolia appointed BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs and Macquarie to lead an IPO for Tavan Tolgoi said to be worth as much as $15 billion, and previous administrations have discussed a triple listing for the project in London, Hong Kong and Ulaanbaatar.

Mongolia also allowed international investors to bid to develop the mine’s western block in 2011, but shelved the plan amid complaints from Japan and South Korea that the process was unfair.

In late 2014, a consortium consisting of Mongolia’s Energy Resources LLC., China’s Shenhua Energy and the Sumitomo Corporation of Japan was selected to invest $4 billion in the project. However, talks with the government collapsed in 2016 after a plunge in coal prices.

Some analysts still doubt Mongolia is ready to launch the IPO.

“I am still not convinced Tavan Tolgoi is moving any time soon as unresolved major issues still remain, such as funding for the railway and (coal) washing plant,” said Mogi Badral Bontoi, head of Cover Mongolia, an Ulaanbaatar-based market intelligence firm.

“Will the Chinese be involved again? Without resolving these issues, both on paper and politically the (Tavan Tolgoi) IPO is still far from reality,” he said. (Reporting by Michael Kohn Editing by David Stanway and Joseph Radford)