Recently, Bloomberg reported that Energy Resources LLC had successfully restructured its debt and that the bond and stock value of the company had risen. The CEO of Energy Resources LLC, G.Battsengel, spoke to Bloomberg Television Mongolia regarding the company’s debt and the performance of the coal market. Energy Resources LLC is an indirectly, wholly-owned subsidiary of Mongolian Mining Corporation (MMC), which is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
Around 94 percent of bondholders supported debt restructuring. What conditions were agreed upon?
The debt restructuring process of Mongolian Mining Corporation (MMC) started in January 2016. Looking at the debt in its entirety, it was the 600 million USD bond issued in 2012 and the 93 million USD owed to BNP and ICBC. In late 2016, we came to an agreement with all parties regarding the debt. First, the repayment of the bond was postponed by six years, to 2022. Second, the previous interest rate was consistently around 8.077 percent. In light of the drop in the market price for coal, it was agreed that the interest rate would become a floating rate that would fluctuate between five to eight percent. In other words, depending on the market price of coal, the interest rate is likely to decrease. Third, we managed to decrease the volume of the bond.The bank loans were 93 million USD, the bond repayment 600 million USD, and the accumulated interest totaled about 750 million USD. We came to an agreement, which helped lower the 750 million USD to around 425 million USD. This resulted in the current account of the company yielding a positive balance. All of the agreements mentioned were discussed in 2016. On January 13, 2017, 94 percent of bondholders officially agreed to the conditions of the agreements.
In terms of cash flow and financial pressure, how have the agreements positively affected the company?
Postponing and lowering the volume of the 750 million USD debt is a big issue. Our financial expenditure will basically be cut in half.
What do you have planned to improve performance and cut costs this year?
Of course, in order to improve the competitiveness of the company, costs must be cut and efficiency must be improved. If you look at the financial reports of the company since 2012, we have consistently decreased costs and expenditure every year.
We have worked to decrease the cost of transport to the Chinese border crossing of Gants Mod. It cost around 80 USD to transport one ton of coal concentrate to Gants Mod in 2011 and 2012. Now, the cost is around 50 USD. Yet, even though we have cut costs, the downfall of the market price of coal has affected our operations.
Our investors and bondholders understanding the current situation and coming to an agreement shows us that they support the company long-term.
The issue that has been at the forefront for both investors and the public is undoubtedly the Tavan Tolgoi project and contract. How will the negotiations continue? How do you see the involvement and responsibilities of your company in the project?
When the bid was announced, our company established a consortium with China’s Shenhua Group and Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation. The new government has appointed a large working group to work on the Tavan Tolgoi negotiations. They are working to take many things, such as the legal aspects and economic benefits, into account. The position that Energy Resources takes regarding Tavan Tolgoi is that this project is beneficial to Mongolia; it will increase cash flow and export revenue.
The final say for the negotiations lies with Cabinet and the government, meaning that this issue will probably be presented to Parliament. Whatever decision the government makes, we are ready to cooperate. However, our company has decided the issue of our debt. The market price for coal has been increasing somewhat, and financial performance and sales have risen as a result. Therefore, we are focusing more on our main operations. In other words, we see the Tavan Tolgoi project as an opportunity to expand our business portfolio.
Recently, Cabinet gave coal companies an order to implement a unified policy on coal exports. Which policies will your company be adhering to regarding cooperating with other companies to determine pricing?
We have expressed, time and time again, that Mongolia must cooperate domestically and coal companies do not need to drive prices down; this hurts the country. There has been news that all coal companies operating in the Tavan Tolgoi region have been cooperating andmaking an effort to increase prices, even state-owned Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi has increased their prices. Our company’s price for coal at the end of 2016 was 120 USD per one ton of coal.
It is not known whether or not the current market price will be consistent until the end of Lunar New Year celebrations. There is hope, however, that average coal prices in 2017 will be higher than those of 2016.
Undoubtedly, your company has created a business plan for 2017. What are your forecasts for export revenue and coal sales?
The investment and construction that Energy Resources LLC has accomplished is well-known. A refinery with the capacity to process 15 million tons of coal annually is ready to work. All essential infrastructure, water supply, a power station, and transportation network has been built. We hope to use our facilities to their full capacity, depending on market conditions.
When the market price for coal is ideal, like it is today, it is important to use the opportunity and work at full capacity.