JOHANNESBURG  - Sibambene Coal, South Africa’s newly established empowered mining company, said yesterday that it was on an acquisition trail that would see it exporting coal to the international market and supplying state-owned Eskom at cheaper rates.

Sibambene, which means "we are united" in Zulu, aims to challenge the dominance of big players in the coal industry and is looking to acquire South African-based assets, both existing and green fields projects.

Sakhile Ngcobo, the chairperson of Mirospan, an industrial supplier and investment company, was looking very aggressively for assets.

“I can tell you that I have met with Anglo American to see if there are opportunities in the coal industry. We looked at Optimum Coal for example, we did not like it. We did not think it met our investment criteria,” he said referring to the Gupta-owned Optimum, whose assets are on sale after going bust. “We like South32's coal assets. They are world class and are well run. I am not going to talk about them today,” said  Ngcobo.

JSE- and Australian-listed South32 has unbundled its South Africa Energy Coal business and in June it is expected to announce the successful bidder for its assets that include the Khutala, Klipspruit, Middelburg and Wolwekrans collieries.

Ngcobo said that despite concerns about clean energy, coal remained a strategic asset. “Coal is a sunrise industry and it is here to stay,”  Ngcobo said.

Vuslat Bayoglu, a director at Sibambene, said that Sibambene was established to level the playing fields in South Africa’s coal industry.

“There is dominance in the market and an over-concentration by certain companies,” Bayoglu said.

He added that new players were required, citing that three listed companies accounted for 87percent of Eskom’s supply.

Exxaro Resources, South Africa’s diversified mining company, accounted for 38percent of Eskom’s supply, South32 accounted for 32percent and Glencore accounted for 17percent.

Bayoglu said there were no discussions to make the company public.

“We think that listed coal mining companies on the JSE are undervalued. We don't see a big appetite for listed coal companies, but the market might change. The perception at the moment is not good for coal companies,” Bayoglu said.

Sibambene is comprised of Inkanyeti, a group of 20 professional women, black industrialists, Siyakha Community Trust, investment company Menar and giant energy company Mercuria.

Nomfundo Ngwenya, Sibambene’s chairperson, said the company was the first to be launched with a structure that was fully compliant to the mining charter.

“While some investors may still be mulling about whether or not the new mining charter is good for investments, we are embracing it and moving ahead because we think it’s for South Africa if its spirit is well understood by the investment community,” said Ngwenya.

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