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BHP offers to buy Australia coal rail assets -paper
MELBOURNE Dec 16 (Reuters) - Global miner BHP Billiton (BHP.AX) has offered to buy the Australian state of Queensland's coal freight business, The Australian said on Wednesday.
BHP (BLT.L) declined to comment on the report.
The Queensland government last week said it planned to float Queensland Rail's (QR) coal tracks and trains by the end of 2010, after taking advice from a consortium of Rothschild, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch (BAC.N) and RBS Australia (RBS.L).
The government's move not to separate the tracks and freight services sparked an uproar from miners and rival operators.
Companies that use the coal haulage service are nervous that if the privatised company owns both the haulage service and the tracks, it could hurt the efficiency of coal transport.
Rival rail group Asciano Ltd (AIO.AX) complained that a rail operator who owns the QR tracks could charge more on the use of its tracks to subsidise cheaper services on coal haulage, and undercut other freight operators' prices.
BHP Billiton has previously said it is looking at a range of options, including building its own rail, to improve the efficiency of coal haulage in Queensland, where logjams at key ports have stalled coal exports. ($1=1.103 Australian Dollar) (Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Mark Bendeich)
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