Anglo American’s Coal Spinoff Is Valued at Almost $250 Million

South African coal miner Thungela Resources Ltd. faced a tough start to trading as a public company, tumbling from an initial disappointing valuation a day after the Anglo American Plc spinoff was targeted by a short seller.

Thungela dropped 12% from its opening trade by late afternoon in Johannesburg on Monday, for a market capitalization of about 3 billion rand ($221 million). By comparison, Liberum Capital estimated the company could be worth $440 million to $950 million in a note last week, while SBG Securities pegged the potential value at about 4.4 billion rand June 4.

For Anglo, the spinoff came as a solution to pressure from environmentalists and some investors, who either can’t or don’t want to hold a company that directly exposes them to the most polluting fuel. That means at least some of the holders in Thungela -- who received shares based on their investment in Anglo -- will probably be seeking an exit.

“It was always going to be tough because of the known sellers,” said Ben Davis, an analyst at Liberum. “It will take time to shake out that ratio. No one’s going to jump in with both feet on day one.”

Anglo Chief Executive Officer Mark Cutifani has previously acknowledged that the company probably missed the best opportunity to get the highest price for its coal assets. Instead, he said the focus was on handing over the mines in a responsible way. After exiting South African coal, Anglo still owns a coal mine in Colombia and coking coal assets in Australia.

The spinoff represents the latest in a series of shifts in ownership of coal operations around the world, as the biggest producers seek to offload their assets while some other investors see it as an opportunity to generate cash from the unloved mines.

Coal prices are also surging, as a spike in demand coincides with production problems at several major miners. That offers the potential for windfall profits for investors still prepared to invest in miners such as Thungela.

Thungela opened at 25 rand a share in Johannesburg, where the company has its primary listing, before dropping to 21.90 rand as of 5:45 p.m. local time. The stock opened at 150 pence in London, before declining 26%.

“It does appear to be trading below expectations,” said Stephen Meintjes, head of research at Momentum Securities in Johannesburg. The stock may be coming under pressure because of concern over mine-rehabilitation provisions, he said, which were one of the issues raised on the weekend by short seller Boatman Capital.

“The other factor could simply be that international holders who are averse to coal and for whom the holding is immaterial simply want to clear it out of their portfolios.”

Boatman said on Sunday Thungela is worthless because of the projected environmental clean-up costs when its mines are closed over the next decade. Responding to Boatman’s research report, Anglo said the provision on Thungela’s balance sheet is “over and above the regulatory guidance applicable to miners in South Africa.”

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