Business / Industries

China's thermal coal import outlook remains weak: Fitch

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-10-03 11:57

BEIJING - The outlook for thermal coal import demand in China, the world's largest importer, is weak, rating agency Fitch said in its latest industry report.

The report, sent to Xinhua on Thursday, attributed the weakness to China's slowing industrial production, higher hydro-based generation, as well as ongoing implementation of policies aimed at curtailing coal consumption.

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Reduction of China's coal production is key for domestic thermal coal prices to improve, according to the Fitch report. Further downside risks are limited while international prices will remain weak, as a significant share of production has been at a loss, it said.

China's proposed import ban aimed at curtailing high ash and sulphur coals could impact Australian and South African coal and potentially benefit cleaner Indonesian coal, according to the report.

Imports to China could also face a greater threat in the medium term, depending on the timing of bans on coal use in some major cities in south and east China, which are among the highest consumers of imported coal, it said.

The Chinese government banned the sale and import of coal with more than 40 percent ash and 3 percent sulphur starting Sept 1 in an effort to improve air quality in major cities.

China will also levy a resource tax on coal based on price from Dec 1, and the tax rate will be decided by provincial governments within a given range, which analysts said could help prevent over-consumption and boost industrial upgrades.

China is the world's largest consumer of coal, accounting for around half of global consumption. Nearly 70 percent of its energy comes from coal, a proportion much higher than in developed countries, which use cleaner resources like oil and gas. China has the world's third-largest coal reserves but lacks gas and oil.

In the first eight months of 2014, China imported 202 million tons, down 5.3 percent year on year, according to the China Coal Industry Association.

Australia exports an estimated 50 million tons of thermal coal to China annually.

The Fitch report also said the thermal coal market in Asia will remain oversupplied in the next 12 months despite ongoing rationalization of production, and prices remain weak.

Weak prices will continue to exert pressure on coal producers' credit profiles, especially those that are not sufficiently diversified to minimize the impact of weaker margins from coal mining, it added.


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