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Monday, 17 September 18
GLENCORE RETURNS TO JAPAN COAL TALKS SCUPPERED BY HIGH PRICES - BLOOMBERG
BloombergMining giant Glencore Plc and Japanese utilities have resumed thermal coal supply negotiations, restarting talks that fell apart earlier this year as prices hovered near a six-year high.
 
Glencore and Japan’s Tohoku Electric Power Co are discussing an annual supply contract starting in October at $103 to $118 a metric tonne, analysts at Credit Suisse Group AG wrote in a report this week.
 
Previous efforts to reach a deal, for supplies starting in April this year, broke down.
Spot prices for Australia’s Newcastle coal, a regional benchmark, have been robust the past three months, trading near the highest in more than six years.
 
Glencore declined to comment on contract discussion. A spokesman for the Japanese utility said the company holds discussions with suppliers as needed, but declined to comment specifically on talks with Glencore. “Tohoku usually buys more volume under the October-September contract, therefore, a settlement is more likely to be reached this time,” said Prakash Sharma, research director at Wood Mackenzie Ltd, predicting they would eventually agree to around $110. “Even if the April episode is repeated, we don’t think it would be the end of the reference pricing system as some buyers in Japan and wider Asia continue to have a preference for contract pricing.”
 
Newcastle coal on the Globalcoal index hit $117.95 a ton in July, the highest since February 2012. The fuel has averaged about $105 in 2018, heading for the most since 2011.
Prices closed at $114.40 on Thursday.
 
Japanese coal users have raised concerns over Glencore’s expansion in Australia, where Japan gets about three-quarters of its thermal coal.
Jera Co, one of Japan’s biggest buyers, warned the nation’s antitrust regulators last year that Glencore’s purchase of Rio Tinto Group’s Hunter Valley mines in Australia would give it a dominant position as a supplier and hurt competition, Bloomberg News reported in December.
 
Analysts at Credit Suisse see possible support for those worries.
Major miners could avoid trading cargoes on platforms such as Globalcoal to keep visible pricing illiquid, they wrote in the September 12 note, citing a McCloskey report that Glencore won a tender to sell coal to Korean companies at $95 a tonne.
 
“We conclude that Glencore – the biggest Hunter Valley coal producer – would prefer to win contracts at lower prices than add liquidity to the spot market,” they wrote. “Extreme illiquidity has probably helped the Newcastle spot coal price remain so resilient.
It could be intentional – an expression of the pricing power that major miners are beginning to exercise over the price following consolidation.”
Glencore declined to comment on the Credit Suisse report.
Source: Bloomberg


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