Bullish outlook for coking coal

[miningmx.com] — THE coking coal market has better long-term fundamentals than the iron ore market, according to a recent research report by financial institution MF Global.

The report highlighted the potential of Mozambique and Mongolia to be “potential game changers’ on the supply side – but only from 2015 and “conditional on infrastructure’.

As a result of its concern over the provision of the required infrastructure, MF Global has turned bearish on prospects for Australian junior Riversdale Mining which is developing two major coking coal projects near Tete in Mozambique.

These are the Benga project, in which Indian steel group Tata holds a 35% stake, and the Zambeze project, in which Chinese group Wuhan Iron and Steel Corporation has just agreed to buy a 40% stake.

Riversdale has also struck a logistics partnership agreement with China Communications Construction Company.

This company will carry out a “mine to ship logistics’ study into the export of large volumes of coal from Mozambique, which at present suffers severe limitations on its rail and port infrastructure.

On Thursday, Riversdale announced a capital raising of A$337m at a fixed offer price of A$9.40 a share to accelerate the development of stages two and three of the Benga project.

Riversdale chairman Michael O’ Keeffe said the accelerated logistics development also included “Riversdale’s commitment to upgrading the existing coal terminal at Beira, for which Riversdale has entered into a memorandum of understanding with Vale and the Mozambique rail and port authority CFM.’

MF Global has put out a sell recommendation on Riversdale, on the grounds that the market “is expecting too much too soon’.

The firm said: “The risk/reward profile on offer is actually about long-term infrastructure development and financing.

“Given the recent share price moves, we believe the market is already pricing in quite an optimistic outcome on this front, particularly when compared to a number of producing companies where resource optionality isn’t being valued at all.

“The infrastructure demands are challenging and we expect disappointments. Riversdale’s production targets are conditional upon a significant amount of infrastructure being developed and allocations being received.

“Investors without a very long-time horizon and specialist interest in development risk would be best taking profits above $10.’

MF Global said the coking coal market appeared more balanced than iron ore, because China was not such a major factor.

The firm said: “Japan is the largest destination (35%) followed by India (20%), China (10%) and Europe (10%).

“The more balanced spread is positive when compared to the concentrated risk of the iron ore market, particularly if there is to be a more balanced global economy in 2010.

“In the longer term, demand will be driven by India and Brazil which are long (on) iron ore but short coking coal. “

Turning to the supply side, MF Global pointed out this was dominated at present by Australia which accounted for 70% of the seaborne trade in coking coal. However, supply growth from that country was constrained by logistics problems.

About 85% of the metallurgical coal exports from Australia are shipped from the state of Queensland, but MF Global pointed out port capacity has been operating at around 70% to 80% for the past five years.

The report stated: “In Queensland, the rail network is underdeveloped and congestions are frequent. System underperformance has resulted in lost sales and increased demurrage.

“The queues of ships that can sometimes stretch as long as 70 in number and can wait for over a month to be loaded, are nearly always caused by rail congestion rather than the port facility itself.’