SouthGobi delays interest payment, gets till Dec. 1 to find new funding

HONG KONG – SouthGobi Resources Ltd. (TSX:SGQ) says it’s delaying the November installment of a cash interest payment that is owed to a subsidiary of China Investment Corp., which has granted an 11-day extension to the beginning of December.

As of Thursday, SouthGobi had only $4.9 million cash — about 60 per cent of the $8.1-million payment that was due on Wednesday.

SouthGobi — an indirect subsidiary of Rio Tinto PLC through Vancouver-based Turquoise Hill Resources (TSX:TRQ), is a coal mining company with its major operations in Mongolia. Based on recently public stock prices, SouthGobi has a market value of about $98 million.

It says CIC — which currently owns 16.5 per cent of SouthGobi’s shares — has agreed to give the company until Dec. 1 to make the payment. Failing that, CIC would have the right to demand immediate payment of all interest and principal owing.

China Investment originally provided $500 million to SouthGobi in November 2009 in return for secured, convertible debentures that pay the equivalent of eight per cent annual interest — including 1.6 perentage points in SouthGobi shares. In March 2010, half of the original principal was converted into SouthGlobi equity.

Since then, China’s economic growth has slowed and coal prices have recently dropped sharply, putting pressure on producers.

SouthGobi stock is publicly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The stock closed Wednesday at 52.5 cents, down from $14 on Nov. 20, 2009 and $16.52 on March 29, 2010, when the debt-to-stock conversion was triggered.

Turquoise Hill, also listed on the TSX, owns about 56 per cent of SouthGobi’s stock, while Rio Tinto PLC owns about 50.8 per cent of Turquoise Hill, formerly called Ivanhoe Mines.