China's state-owned Shenhua Group Corp Ltd and Aditya Birla Group
are among the companies considering bids for Rio Tinto's Australian coal assets, which have an estimated value of USD 3.2 billion, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
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The coal stakes are among a string of assets Rio is offloading as its new chief executive, Sam Walsh, seeks to raise funds to help cut the company's USD 26 billion in debt and protect its single-A credit rating.
Rio Tinto is selling a 29 percent stake in its Coal & Allied business and its majority stake in the Clermont mine in Queensland state, with preliminary bids due this week, one person with direct knowledge of the matter said.
State-run Coal India Ltd , the world's largest coal producer, is also expected to bid, the person said.
Rio Tinto, Aditya Birla Group and Coal India declined to comment, while Shenhua was not available for a comment. Sources declined to be identified as the sale process is confidential.