British Coal sell-off nearing completion

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British Coal is confident that it will sell thousands of acres of agricultural land, business premises and other properties by the end of the year, finally bringing an end to the privatisation process that started 18 months ago.

Neil Clarke, chairman of British Coal, said in his annual review yesterday that the sale of non-mining activities, which also include housing, was progressing well and that the final disposals could reap an additional pounds 100m.

More than pounds 180m has been raised from non-mining disposals so far. Sales of business activities have yielded pounds 62m and another pounds 120m has come from property disposals over the 15 months to May.

The bulk of British Coal's operations were disposed of 18 months ago, through the sale of its pit and open-cast mining sites for pounds 963m. Most of the coal mines were sold to RJB Mining for pounds 815m, and other sites were sold to Coal Investments.

British Coal, which also disclosed yesterday that it incurred a pounds 74m loss after exceptional items and before interest in its last financial year, said the remaining assets were on the market and attracting interested buyers.

"The achievements of the year have brought the privatisation process as a whole considerably closer to a conclusion," Mr Clarke added. Any remaining British Coal activities not sold will be transferred to the Department of Trade and Industry by the end of 1997.

The update on disposals yesterday follows Monday's announcement that Goldman Sachs had bought CinMan, the pension fund management arm of British Coal.

Terms of the deal - which swelled the funds under management at Goldman's asset management side by $23bn to $85bn - were not disclosed.