Tag Archives: Galilee Basin

Palmer Faces The Perennial China Question: When Is A Deal A Done Deal?

How binding is an agreement of intent? Not an uncommon question when doing business with Chinese companies. Australian multimillionaire Clive Palmer’s trumpeted agreement with China Power International to sell it coal from the new Galilee Basin coalfield in northern Queensland turns out, it seems, to be more of a framework than a final contract.

Palmer and Queensland Premier Anna Bligh announced at the weekend what they said was Australia’s biggest export contact, worth $60 billion over 20 years. Hong Kong-listed China Power International Development, the named customer, issued a statement on Tuesday denying that it had reached such an deal. Palmer’s company, Resourcehouse, then said had got the name wrong. It had struck the agreement  with CPID’s parent state-owned China Power International Holding in Beijing. A CPIH executive then described the agreement as a framework.

Xinhua has reported that the two companies have signed “an agreement of intent” but have not yet started price negotiations. Premier Bligh is reported in the Australian press as saying that she had seen the contract and while it did not mention dollar totals, it did mention tonnages. Resourcehouse is now saying the price will be linked to market prices and casting the $60 billion figure as its estimate over the life of the agreement.

Echoes in all of this of the Australian securities regulators’ failed case against Fortescue Metals Group, which was accused in 2006 of overstating agreements with three Chinese companies to finance its Pilbara iron ore project. (The regulators are still appealing the ruling against them.)

This Bystander’s two-cents’ worth is that a final contract with China Power International will eventually get signed; China needs the coal and there is a lot of construction work for Chinese firms tied up in the deal.  But Resourcehouse has clearly jumped the gun, for which there will likely be a negotiating cost. It has also been left with some egg on its face that will need to wiped off before its possible initial public offering in March.

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$60B Australian Coal Deal Is Good Business For China

It is being billed as Australia’s biggest export contract, but by any measure it is a whopping deal. China Power International Development, an arm of China Power Investment, owner of Hong Kong-listed China Power, has contracted to buy $60 billion-worth of coal over 20 years from privately held Resourcehouse, starting in 2014.

Resourcehouse will be suppling 30 million tones of coal a year from the new Galilee Basin coal field in northern Queensland. The company is reported to be now planning its delayed initial public offering in Hong Kong for March to help fund the $8 billion development of the field. Much of the work will be done by Chinese companies. Metallurgical Corporation of China will build the mine and associated export infrastructure which includes a port and new rail link. Sino Coal International Engineering. China Communications Construction, and China Railway Group will be sub-contractors on the project. Export-Import Bank of China is providing $5.6 billion of financing.

Resourcehouse’s owner, Clive Palmer, who is one of Australia’s 30 richest men with fortune of $420 million, according to Forbes, has previous with China. In 2006 and 2007, he sold iron-ore-deposit leases to Citic Pacific for $415 million.

For all China’s plans to switch to green energy technologies, it is still heavily dependent on coal for power generation. The deal also suggests that relations between the two countries are back on a reasonably even keel following the so-called Rio 4 industrial espionage affair and a number of other points of conflict including Chinalco’s rebuffed attempt to buy into Rio Tinto and the visit to Australia of exiled Uighur activist, Rebiya Kadeer.

Keeping the project a largely all-Chinese affair won’t have hurt it either. But it does raise a question about how many of the expected 6,000 jobs that are forecast to be created by the deal will go to Australians.

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Filed under China-Australia, Energy, Industry