New Hope exploring sale that could be worth $5bn

AUSTRALIAN coal miner New Hope Corp put itself up for auction yesterday after receiving several bid approaches, sending its market value surging 15 per cent to almost A$5.1bn (£3.18bn).

The group said the approaches were informal and it would invite selected parties to bid, starting a process that could test Australia’s openness to foreign mine owners.

New Hope would not name the interested parties. Analysts said firms in rapidly growing China and India were most likely among them although industry officials in India said New Hope might be too expensive for an Indian company to acquire.

A takeover of New Hope, which has its own port, would be the latest in a string of deals in Australia’s coal sector, reflecting demand to feed Asia’s strong growth.

The firm’s shares rose 81 cents to A$6.10, valuing the company at A$5.1bn, after touching a record high of A$6.50 early in the trading session.

New Hope chairman Robert Millner hinted that New Hope could be a reluctant target, but the company was obligated to explore any deal that would give shareholders best value.