Mitsubishi says it may sell stakes in Australia thermal coal mines

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Mitsubishi Corporation is displayed at the entrance of the company headquarters building in Tokyo, Japan, April 26, 2016. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese trading company Mitsubishi Corp may sell stakes in Australia thermal coal mines as it presses on with a switch to core assets such as coking coal after slumping to its first-ever annual loss last year, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

The Nikkei business daily reported earlier on Wednesday that Mitsubishi is looking to unload its 31.4 percent stake in the Clermont mine, and may also sell stake in the Hunter Valley operation. The firm plans to raise its stake in Canada’s Montney shale gas field, the paper said, buying more shares from partner Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp.

“We are considering all options including selling a stake in the Clermont coal mine and we have hired Rothschild as financial advisor for the deal,” a spokesman said. The spokesman didn’t say how much of the mine it might sell, nor how much it might seek for it.

Mitsubishi is also considering whether or not to sell its 32.4 percent stake in Hunter Valley thermal coal mine in Australia after its partner Rio Tinto decided to sell its Australian coal assets to China’s Yancoal, the spokesman said.

After a commodity slump squeezed Mitsubishi into losses in the year ended March 2016, it has been reshuffling its natural resources portfolio to focus on three core assets: coking coal, copper, and liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The Tokyo-based company is also considering a sale of its 50.1 percent stake in South Africa’s chrome ore company Hernic Ferrochrome, according to the industry sources.

Mitsubishi’s reshaping of its portfolio comes as other Japanese trading houses move to cut or freeze thermal coal investments, citing the impact of environmental concerns after the U.N. climate agreement in Paris in 2015.

Mitsui & Co said last year that it plans to cut its exposure to coal by a third within three years, while Sojitz said it will limit investments in coal.

Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell