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CORRECTED-South32 COO "optimistic" about finalising South African thermal coal exit this year

(Corrects Mike Fraser’s title in headline and first paragraph to Chief Operating Officer, not CEO)

JOHANNESBURG, Oct 7 (Reuters) - South32 Chief Operating Officer Mike Fraser on Wednesday said he is still “positively optimistic” that the company will close the sale of its South Africa Energy Coal (SAEC) assets to unlisted Seriti Resources this year, though the deal has taken longer than he anticipated.

The deal, which will increase Seriti’s share of the thermal coal market supplying state power company Eskom, had to secure approval from South Africa’s mines ministry and competition authorities.

South Africa’s Competition Commission last month recommended that the Competition Tribunal approve the deal.

Reporting by Helen Reid Editing by Tanisha Heiberg and David Goodman

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