Analysing the Motives Sustaining a Foreign Investment Resurgence in Australian Coal

Jason West


The Australian coal industry has frequently been described as being in a state of ‘profitless prosperity’ referring
to the continued investment in low margin mining activities by foreign companies with motives other than profit.
Prior research showed that through the use of government investment concessions, foreign trading companies
created an oversupply of seaborne coal to depress prices at the cost of profitability. This study shows that such
‘quasi-integration’ via concessional funding arrangements is no longer a primary strategy employed by foreign
trading companies or governments and finds no evidence of such companies securing coal at below average
prices. This study also finds no clear evidence of foreign trading companies using their implicit information
advantage as equity investors to secure coal at favourable prices during contract negotiations. The study also
examines the investment behaviour of new entrants in the market to highlight the strategic differences between
foreign investors.

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