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Adani to delay Australia coal project over funding, eyes export deals with Asian companies

The billionaire Gautam Adani-backed company has abandoned a 2020 target date to begin mining coal from the Carmichael project in Australia’s northeastern state of Queensland after failing to obtain up to $2.3 billion of funds from lenders by a March deadline.

business Updated: Mar 29, 2018 11:09 IST
Perry Williams & Ruth Carson
Perry Williams & Ruth Carson
Bloomberg, Sydney
Adani coal project,Adani,Adani Group
Protesters protest Adani’s planned coal mine project in northeast Australia, at Sydney’s Bondi Beach in Australia, last October. (Reuters File Photo)

Indian conglomerate Adani Enterprises Ltd. will miss its original deadline to start shipping thermal coal from one of the world’s biggest planned mines due to funding difficulties, even as it eyes export deals with Asian companies.

The billionaire Gautam Adani-backed company has abandoned a 2020 target date to begin mining coal from the Carmichael project in Australia’s northeastern state of Queensland after failing to obtain up to A$3 billion ($2.3 billion) of funds from lenders by a March deadline, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The company now expects first production to be delayed by up to a year, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the details are private.

The group is also considering “unconventional” funding sources, one of which could include capital injections from other parts of Adani’s businesses, according to the person. Other avenues could include the potential sale of equity stakes in the rail and port infrastructure which Adani controls. The firm still plans to seek up to A$3 billion from lenders, the person said.

Adani has said its massive Carmichael mine is meant to bring power to 100 million people in India. The project has drawn ire from environmentalists who say it will endanger the health of the Great Barrier Reef. Lenders from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to three of China’s largest banks have ruled out providing loans for the project. The development comes at a time when coal prices are rising, with Newcastle coal futures up 8.6% in the past 12 months to $89.95 a tonne.

As Adani’s Australia arm explores new funding avenues, it’s also considering deals in China, Vietnam and Taiwan as it seeks more customers for its coal to bolster revenue for the project. A sizeable chunk of Adani’s targeted 27.5 million tonnes of coal from the first phase of production could be supplied to buyers in those three countries, according to the person.

“There has been no change to our marketing strategy,” Adani Australia’s Brisbane-based spokeswoman said in an emailed response to questions Wednesday. “India will remain the key market for Carmichael coal. We are also targeting growth in demand for seaborne thermal coal from Southeast Asia and continued strong demand from North Asia.”

The company remains “confident of securing finance” for the project, according to the email. Adani didn’t respond to questions about a delay in first production.

Adani Power Ltd.’s shares closed almost 6% lower on Wednesday compared with the 0.6% dip of the S&P BSE Sensex Index. It was the biggest drop for the Indian power project development company since March 7. Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd., which operates a shipping port on the west coast of India, fell 3.1% while Adani Enterprises closed 2.2% lower.

Adani has been hunting for alternative project funding after local authorities in Queensland said they would block a loan of A$900 million the company had sought from Australia’s government. The funds were earmarked for the building of a 388 km (241 mile) rail line connecting Carmichael to the company’s Abbot Point port near the Great Barrier Reef. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd., Bank of China Ltd., and China Construction Bank Corp. all said in December that they won’t loan money for the project.

First Published: Mar 29, 2018 10:01 IST