December 9, 2015 / 2:32 PM / 2 years ago

UPDATE 2-Czech minister puts off talks with miner NWR on its future

* Minister says NWR asks for significant aid

* Talks not seen until after Jan 4

* Minister says request needs expert analysis

* Miner looking for help to battle coal price slump (Adds industry minister on NWR request, government document)

By Robert Muller

PRAGUE, Dec 9 (Reuters) - The scale of aid requested by miner New World Resources(NWR) to help it survive a coal price slump has forced the Czech Industry Ministry to postpone talks on its future scheduled for Wednesday, Minister Jan Mladek said.

A government document seen by Reuters, prepared prior to the Wednesday scheduled meeting, said NWR had charted a variety of options from a quick or gradual shutdown, a split into loss-making and viable companies, merging with steel or electricity firms or partial asset sales.

The company, which operates four coking and thermal coal mines along the northeastern border with Poland, has seen coking coal prices cut in half in the last four years and has said it could run out of cash by the third quarter of 2016.

It already went through a major debt and equity overhaul in 2014. But analysts see it needing another round of refinancing as there is little chance of a rebound in prices any time soon with oil, gas and electricity at multi-year lows.

NWR management was due to meet the ministers of industry, finance and social affairs on Wednesday to discuss the future of the only miner on the Czech side of the border in a industrial cluster where coal mining has an over 200-year history.

“Representatives of NWR submitted, immediately prior to the meeting, a request for such a financial commitment by the state that I consider to be so serious that it will be necessary to analyse it in detail on the expert level,” Mladek said

He said he would meet union leaders to discuss NWR on Thursday, and talks with the firm could take place after Jan. 4.

NWR had no immediate comment.

Government officials have been dismissive of any aid that would benefit shareholders of the company, partially owned by investor Zdenek Bakala.

They have however not ruled out some government involvement to help limit job losses at the firm employing 13,000 region hit by a decline in heavy industry over the past 25 years.

A deal between the state and NWR reached in 2014, that would provide 600 million crowns ($24.30 million) for social costs of the closure if it kept its Paskov mine open until the end of 2017, has fallen through after coal prices fell below benchmarks set in the agreement.

Shares in NWR have dropped to less than half a U.S. cent, valuing the firm at 23.4 million pounds ($35.50 million), versus 3.5 billion at a 2008 initial public offering. Debt stood at over 321 million euros in the third quarter.

The document said the government had contacted firms including electricity producer CEZ, OKK and Steel maker Trinecke Zelezarny to sound them out as possible buyers of some NWR assets.

The mining industry in neighbouring Poland is also struggling with slumping prices and high production costs. Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said earlier in December Poland would buy stockpiled coal reserves from struggling mining companies.

($1 = 24.6880 Czech crowns)

$1 = 0.6592 pounds Additonal reporting by Jan Lopatka, Writing by Michael Kahn and Jason Hovet, editing by William Hardy

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