This would be Glencore’s most significant purchase since its record share listing, when it sacrificed its fiercely protected privacy to gain the balance sheet firepower for making acquisitions.
Optimum, a mid-size producer, has export capacity and reserves that make it attractive prey for big foreign companies hoping to capitalise on Indian and Chinese demand.
The acquisition of South Africa’s sixth-largest coal producer would give Glencore access to two operating assets, the Optimum Collieries and Koornfontein Mines, as well as 8m tons of coal export entitlements from the Richards Bay Coal Terminal.
“Optimum’s high quality, long life coal assets and significant presence at Richards Bay Coal Terminal would be an attractive addition to our existing South African coal business,” said Tor Peterson, director of the Coal-Coke commodity department at Glencore.
Glencore said that it and Lexshell 849 Investments Ltd, a company owned by Ramaphosa, have entered into agreements to buy 43.51 per cent of Optimum’s shares.
The consortium plan to buy the remaining shares for 34 rand each, a 26 per cent premium on the coal producer’s pre-bid share price.