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Asia May Have Become Top Buyer of South African Coal (Correct)
By Antony Sguazzin and Alistair Holloway
Jan. 5 (Bloomberg) — Asia may have overtaken Europe for the first time as the biggest purchaser of South African coal in 2009, according to Raymond Chirwa, Richards Bay Coal Terminal’s chief executive officer.
Shipment levels to Asia and Europe in the year’s first 10 months were similar, while the final two months are being calculated, Chirwa said in a phone interview today. “It would be a big shift” if Asia were the largest buyer, he said.
Richards Bay, on South Africa’s northeastern coast, handles almost all of the nation’s outbound coal shipments and is owned by Anglo American Plc and its other leading exporters of the fuel. While the port is the biggest source of coal for European power plants, Asian buyers have been increasing purchases, including lower-quality fuel.
“You have strong growth in India and weakness, if not contraction, in terms of growth in Europe,” Daniel Brebner, an analyst at Deutsche Bank AG in London, said in an interview. “It isn’t surprising that you are seeing this evolution of exports by the South Africans into near Asia.”
India’s power ministry has advised local generators to import 28.7 million metric tons of coal for the year ending in March to meet a shortfall, Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal told parliament in writing on Dec. 7. Coal India Ltd., the country’s biggest producer, may acquire mines in the U.S., Australia and other nations to bridge the domestic shortage, Jaiswal said in a written reply to lawmakers on Nov. 23.
Overall exports from Richards Bay fell for a fifth straight year in 2009 as rail services deteriorated, sliding to 61.14 million tons from 61.7 million tons in the prior year. Chirwa gave no breakdown for coal shipments by destination.
State-owned Transnet Freight Rail delivered 61 million tons in the year, less than the terminal’s 76 million-ton capacity, Richards Bay said in an e-mailed statement.
“We still see that there is the biggest impact coming through from rail services,” Chirwa said, adding that talks are under way with Transnet Freight Rail.
Spokesman John Dludlu at Transnet Ltd., the parent company of Transnet Freight Rail, declined to comment.
91 Million Tons
The terminal, founded as a 12 million-ton facility in 1976, aims to raise annual capacity to 91 million tons in the second quarter, making it the world’s biggest coal-export port, according to the statement.
Exxaro Resources Ltd. and other black-owned mining companies are expected to join Anglo and other users of the facility this month as part of an accord related to expansion at the terminal, Richards Bay said.
Prices for coal shipped from the terminal reached the highest in almost a year in the three days to Dec. 31, rising 4.8 percent to an average of $81.20 a ton, according to Petersfield, England-based researcher McCloskey Group Ltd. It was a seventh consecutive weekly gain, driven by coal demand from China, the world’s biggest consumer of the fuel.
“It’s a knock-on effect,” Mike Newman, an analyst at McCloskey, said by phone yesterday. “Chinese prices rise, which makes Australian coal more expensive, and Australian prices are dragging up Richards Bay prices because they are going into the same market, which is India and China.”
China’s northern Shanxi province closed power stations with more than 4,000 megawatts of capacity yesterday because weather- related disruptions cut coal deliveries, the official China National Radio reported today. The country’s coal imports rose in June to the highest for customs figures on Bloomberg going back to December 2004.