Brazil's Vale to divest troubled coal assets in Mozambique

TOKYO (Reuters) - Brazil’s Vale said on Thursday it is buying out minority stake partner, Japan’s Mitsui & Co, in a Mozambique coal mine and port project, ahead of selling the loss-making asset as it works to become carbon neutral by 2050.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Japanese trading company Mitsui & Co. is seen in Tokyo, Japan, January 10, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Vale, the world’s second-biggest iron ore miner, said in a statement it planned to divest its loss-making Moatize coal mine and Nacala Corridor rail and port projects in Mozambique, to focus on its core operations.

Mitsui said separately on Thursday it has agreed to sell its stake in the mine and the infrastructure assets to Vale, the project operator, for $1 each, aiming to complete the transfer by year-end.

“It’s a terribly underperforming asset,” said analyst Mathew Hodge of Morningstar in Sydney. “Something meaningful needs to change for it to have saleable value.”

In 2019, Vale fully impaired the assets due to technical and operational issues and said it would revise its mining plan and overhaul its processing plants, before those plans were disrupted by COVID-19.

Vale’s coal division posted a loss of $213 million in adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisatision in its most recent quarterly result.

The operations are expected to resume their ramp-up this year, to reach a production rate of 15 million tonnes a year in the second half and 18 million tonnes a year in 2022, Vale said.

Mitsui has posted a series of impairment losses, totalling 46.7 billion yen ($451 million), on its Mozambique coal and infrastructure assets, taking the book value of its stake in the Moatize mine to zero. The Nacala transport corridor still has a book value of about $500 million, including its loans, it said.

Mitsui said it is reviewing an anticipated loss from the sale. Any financial impact related to the projects was considered in its October earnings forecast for the current financial year to March 31, it said.

($1 = 103.5500 yen)

Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Additional reporting by Melanie Burton in Melbourne; Editing by Richard Pullin