Johannesburg – The controversial Gupta family could possibly buy diversified commodity giant Glencore’s Optimum Coal mine in Mpumalanga, according to newspaper reports.

A due diligence was under way to determine whether either one of two Gupta-owned firms, Oakbay Resources or Oakbay Investments, would buy the mine, according to the City Press newspaper, which confirmed this through various sources. The Gupta family did not respond to questions sent via email yesterday.

Optimum had a contract to supply 5.5 million tons of coal a year to power utility Eskom’s Hendrina Power Station.

Business rescue

Glencore spokesman Gugulethu Maqetuka yesterday declined to comment, saying that Optimum Coal was under business rescue.

“We really can’t talk on behalf of Optimum at this stage,” Maqetuka added.

Louise Brugman, a spokeswoman for the business rescue practitioners, said yesterday that she could not comment on the article.

“The business rescue practitioners are planning on releasing a statement this week,” she said.

Optimum was placed under business rescue in August after Eskom refused to renegotiate the contract that resulted in Optimum losing about R3.7 million a day.

Speculation

City Press said that speculation was rife last week about whether Optimum would be sold, and to whom, after business rescue practitioners confirmed “there was buying interest” and “one specific option” was being pursued.

Optimum supplied the Hendrina plant at R150 a ton under an agreement that is sue to end in 2018.

Glencore and Eskom were involved in a bitter spat over the coal price.

The commodity trader was looking to be either released from the obligation or that Eskom pay R530 a ton for coal for its Hendrina plant.

Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe last month spoke about the legal route that Eskom would take if Optimum stopped supplying Eskom coal at that amount.

“As far as Hendrina is concerned, we agreed on a price of R150 (a ton) with Glencore… If they are not able to deliver on their side of the contract and they cause us damages, we can recover (the damages) in court.”

Molefe said Eskom could buy coal elsewhere.

Oakbay Resources and Energy is a gold and uranium producer which debuted on the JSE last year. It is chaired by Atul Gupta.

Oakbay Resources shares were unchanged at R30.39 on the JSE yesterday, while Glencore added 0.79 percent to R19.03.

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