Mitsui to sell stake in Mozambique coal mine to Vale

Carbon neutral: A Vale signage on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The world’s second-biggest iron ore miner plans to focus on its core operations. — Bloomberg

TOKYO: Brazil’s Vale is buying out minority stake partner, Japan’s Mitsui & Co, in a Mozambique coal mine and port project, ahead of selling the loss-making asset as it works to become carbon neutral by 2050.

Vale, the world’s second-biggest iron ore miner, said in a statement it planned to divest its loss-making Moatize coal mine and Nacala Corridor rail and port projects in Mozambique, to focus on its core operations.

Mitsui said separately yesterday it has agreed to sell its stake in the mine and the infrastructure assets to Vale, the project operator, for US$1 each, aiming to complete the transfer by year-end.

“It’s a terribly underperforming asset, ” said analyst Mathew Hodge of Morningstar in Sydney.

“Something meaningful needs to change for it to have saleable value.”

In 2019, Vale fully-impaired the assets due to technical and operational issues and said it would revise its mining plan and overhaul its processing plants, before those plans were disrupted by Covid-19.

Vale’s coal division posted a loss of US$213mil in adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisatision in its most recent quarterly result.

The operations are expected to resume their ramp-up this year, to reach a production rate of 15 million tonnes a year in the second half and 18 million tonnes a year in 2022, Vale said.

Mitsui has posted a series of impairment losses, totalling 46.7 billion yen (US$451mil), on its Mozambique coal and infrastructure assets, taking the book value of its stake in the Moatize mine to zero.

The Nacala transport corridor still has a book value of about US$500mil, including its loans, it said.

Mitsui said it is reviewing an anticipated loss from the sale. Any financial impact related to the projects was considered in its October earnings forecast for the current financial year to March 31, it said. — Reuters

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