LONDON, June 18 (Reuters) - Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, said it plans to sell Newcastle port, the world’s biggest coal export terminal, meaning another chunk of the country’s vast resources industry could be sold to foreign buyers.
The state’s budget for 2013-2014 delivered on Tuesday outlined plans to sell a 99-year lease to operate the port for an estimated A$700 million ($665 million), subject to a detailed study.
The government’s announcement follows the A$5 billion sale of nearby facilities at Port Botany and Port Kembla earlier this year to a consortium that included the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.
“The success of Port Botany and Port Kembla dictates that we act now,” said the state government’s Treasurer Mike Baird in a budget statement.
“The big winner will be Newcastle itself. Should the transaction be successful, A$340 million of the proceeds will go towards the revitalisation of Newcastle,” Baird added.
The centre-right coalition which governs New South Wales said much of the money raised through sale of the port will be spent on improving urban transport.
Newcastle exported more than 120 million tonnes of coal last year, most of which was shipped to Asia for use in power plants and steelworks.
But Australia’s coal mining industry is bracing for a slowdown in demand. China, the world’s biggest importer of the fossil fuel, is trying to support its domestic coal mining industry and ease worsening pollution in major cities.
But despite prospects that growth in coal demand will start to cool, Australian mines are attracting interest from foreign buyers.
Japanese trading house Marubeni Corp, China’s state-owned Shenhua Group, India’s Aditya Birla Group and Coal India are said to be eying bids for assets owned by Rio Tinto