(Corrects April 21 story to remove reference to Alpha Natural Resources as a large Whitehaven shareholder in paragraph 11. Alpha does not currently own shares in Whitehaven)
* Whitehaven says not been advised Yanzhou has pulled out
* Whitehaven shares drop 5% as hedge funds flee
* India’s Aditya Birla lodged bid - sources (Adds Bloomberg, dealReporter reports)
By Michael Smith
SYDNEY, April 21 (Reuters) - China’s Yanzhou Coal Mining Co is on a shortlist of bidders for Whitehaven Coal , the Australian company said on Thursday, responding to media reports that Yanzhou had pulled out of bidding for the $3.6 billion company.
The media reports sparked a sell-off in Whitehaven’s shares, which sent the stock down as much as 6 percent in its most active trade since the firm put itself up for sale last October.
Whitehaven released the statement after online publication dealReporter said Yanzhou was not going ahead with an offer.
Bloomberg later quoted Yanzhou board secretary Zhang Baocai as saying: “We are currently not in any talks to buy Whitehaven.”
“We currently don’t have any special interest in it. We have looked at this target but that doesn’t mean we will necessarily buy it,” he was quoted as saying by phone from Canada.
Whitehaven had previously not revealed any of the parties on its shortlist, but said on Thursday Yanzhou was in the running.
“Whitehaven has not been advised of any change to this status,” the miner said in a statement.
Yanzhou and India’s Aditya Birla had lodged final bids for the company, sources told Reuters last week. One source said Yanzhou’s bid involved scrip.
Whitehaven said in February it had selected a short list of bidders to complete due diligence in a process expected to continue for “a number of months”. On April 13, the company said its board was considering a shortlist of bidders. [ID:nL3E7FD0QH]
Birla needs thermal coal for its group companies Hindalco , India’s top aluminium producer, and UltraTech Cement , the country’s largest cement producer.
Sources familiar with the deal have said previously that Whitehaven was seeking bids of at least A$7.50 per share which would value the target at around A$3.7 billion.
Whitehaven shares fell 4.5 percent to close at A$6.78.
Goldman Sachs and Grant Samuel are advising Whitehaven. UBS is advising Yanzhou. (Additional reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Balazs Koranyi and Mark Bendeich)