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Commodities

Mongolia revives plan for billion-dollar coal mine IPO

Government yet to choose overseas venue for Tavan Tolgoi listing

Tavan Tolgoi holds estimated reserves of 7.5 billion tons of coking coal.  (Photo by  Byamba-Ochir Byambadorj)

ULAANBAATAR -- The Mongolian government has revived plans shelved several years ago for an international stock offering of the company that controls one of the world's largest coal mines, buoyed by recovering commodity prices.

The government's plan to list 30% of Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi through a combined domestic and overseas offering is now under debate in parliament and may be approved on Friday. The domestic listing is scheduled for September.

The government has yet to decide on a venue for the overseas listing or to detail how the offering will be split between the domestic and offshore markets. It is understood that Hong Kong, New York and London are under consideration.

Tavan Tolgoi, in the south of Mongolia about 240km from the Chinese border, holds estimated reserves of 7.5 billion tons of coking coal. Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi generated a profit last year of 461 billion tugrik ($187.7 million) on revenue of 1.2 trillion tugrik. It posted a profit of 80 billion tugrik in 2016. Most of its output is exported to China.

The company has been on a bumpy ride to market, amid volatility in commodity markets and Mongolian politics as well as unrealized corporate alliances. Shares in the company were distributed for free to the public in 2012 ahead of a planned $3 billion stock market listing; the country's economy then one of the fastest growing in the world.

As coal prices declined, Erdenes came into conflict with Aluminum Corp. of China, which had provided $350 million in financing in exchanging for a pledged supply of coal.

Resurgent demands for retaining domestic control of Mongolia's natural resources have been another obstacle in Erdenes' development. Parliament in 2015 blocked a $4 billion deal for a consortium led by China Shenhua Energy and Japan's Sumitomo Corp. to take over management of Tavan Tolgoi.

Information center of Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi recently opened an information center ahead of its market listing.  (Photo by  Byamba-Ochir Byambadorj)

The Mongolian public has yet to receive any dividends on their 15% holding in Erdenes shares, but company officials have promised that payouts will start later this year. Government officials however have recently backed away from plans to make the public's shares tradeable as part of the stock listing plan; they worry that many Mongolians will immediately dump the stock after years of waiting for the chance, depressing the share price.

"Enabling Tavan Tolgoi shares to become tradeable in the market is a great way to improve Erdenes' governance," said lawmaker Luvsantseren Enkh-Amgalan of the Mongolian People's Party on Wednesday. The party holds 65 of the 76 seats in parliament.

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