Anglo American is considering a counterbid for Macarthur Coal in an attempt to gatecrash a A$4.7bn (US$4.9bn) bid for the Australian coal group from Peabody Energy and ArcelorMittal.

Earlier this month, Macarthur said it was open to offers that valued its business at nearly A$5bn after formally rejecting an “opportunistic” bid from Peabody Energy of the US and steelmaker ArcelorMittal.

People familiar with the bid process said there were a number of interested parties, one of which was Anglo American. The mining group is said to be working with its traditional advisers, which include Goldman Sachs.

It is not clear whether Anglo will proceed with any offer, and talks are expected to come to a head in the next week. A deal would be the largest by Anglo since 2007, with its recent blooming profits creating a degree of financial flexibility that the company has not enjoyed for several years.

Macarthur, which counts China’s Citic Resources as its biggest shareholder, is a leading exporter of a coking coal variety known as pulverised coal. It is one of Australia’s largest independent coal groups and received numerous bids last year.

Peabody and ArcelorMittal took their A$15.50-a-share bid directly to Macarthur’s shareholders after the rejection. The two companies previously told Macarthur they would lift their offer to A$16 a share, provided the group agreed to provisions blocking it from making overtures to potential rival suitors.

Macarthur said it could recommend a A$16 a share offer – worth A$4.9bn – to shareholders but that it would not be blocked from talks with other parties. The group also said any recommendation would be subject to a “conditional price increase” to A$18 a share in the event the takeover bid secured more than 90 per cent acceptances.

All companies declined to comment.

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