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Queensland govt looking to sell ports

Queensland govt looking to sell ports

Sydney: Australia's Queensland state is seeking to raise A$15bn ($12bn) selling two export ports and its entire coal railroad network to make up an expected revenue shortfall, writes Bloomberg.

The Abbot Point coal terminal, the Port of Brisbane, the state's coal railroad business and other assets are for sale, Premier Anna Bligh told state parliament today, according to a copy of the speech on the government's Web site. The sales are to be completed over the next three to five years, she said.

The worst recession since World War II has also prompted Babcock & Brown Infrastructure Group to consider bids for Queensland's Dalrymple Bay port, the nation's second-biggest coal export terminal. BHP Billiton Ltd. and Xstrata Plc are among producers in Australia's biggest coal shipping state.

"This global financial crisis has caused us to examine our asset base in light of current challenges and modern priorities," Bligh said. "The challenges of this century demand we subsidize public transport, not the freight transport requirements of coal companies."

Queensland, the nation's third-most populous state, needs to sell the assets to help fill an estimated A$14bn slump in revenue over the next four years as the recession crimps government earnings. Selling the assets means the state will avoid a further A$12bn of required investment over the next five years, Bligh said.

Abbot Point, Australia's most northerly coal port, is located 25 kilometers (16 miles) north of Bowen and has an annual capacity of 25m tons. The terminal is operated by the Australian coal unit of Xstrata, the world's biggest exporter of power station coal. Abbot Point shipped 12.5m tons of coal and handled 169 ships in the 2008 fiscal year, according to the Ports Corp. of Queensland.

The Port of Brisbane is the nation's biggest exporter of beef and cotton, handling about half of the country's exports for both commodities, according to the port's Web site.

The state is also seeking to sell Queensland Motorways Ltd. and Forest Plantations Queensland, Bligh said.  [03/06/09]