Turning point for coal? Japanese trading firms snap up coal assets
* Japan is world's second-biggest coal importer
* Trading houses take advantage of depressed coal markets
* Signals some betting market has bottomed
* Assets eyed in Mozambique, Mongolia, Australia and Indonesia
By Yuka Obayashi and Sonali Paul
TOKYO/MELBOURNE, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Only a few months ago, a potential buyer said Japanese trading house Marubeni Corp was prepared to sell a costly stake in a Canadian coal mine for as little as $1.
But a flurry of acquisitions of high-quality coal assets by Japanese firms in recent weeks signals that some trading houses at least are betting a depressed coal market where prices have halved in three years may be bottoming out.
This vote of confidence comes amid signs that coal demand in Japan and emerging markets such as India is holding up well despite weaker demand in markets such as China, where coal imports in the first 11 months fell nearly a tenth.
Japan is the world's second-biggest coal importer behind China, importing almost 200 million tonnes a year. Continuación...