'Wollongong Coal' ditches Gujarat link

Gujarat NRE Coking Coal is set to re-emerge as Wollongong Coal, after shareholders voted to rename the troubled Illawarra company at a meeting in Towradgi yesterday.

Speaking directly afterwards, new chairman Jasbir Singh denied the new name was an attempt to distance the firm from its former owners and the financial turmoil of the past year.

"That was never the idea," he said.

"[The company] was a subsidiary of Gujarat in India and now they are no longer the majority shareholder so we have to go away from that name."

He said the new major shareholder Jindal Steel wanted to emphasise the "local" nature of the company with the new name.

"This company has operations only in Wollongong, so it has to be a local company and that's the main idea that we should have a local name," he said.

Mr Singh did say he hoped the company would have "a refreshing new start" after the name change, which is subject to approval from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission before it can be made official.

"We have [had] to look at it as a new start for the last many months because a lot of effort has [gone into bringing the company] to the stage it is at now, but I will say that with the Wollongong name it is a new chapter," Mr Singh said.

He also outlined the company's visions for its Illawarra mines.

"Our vision is that we have to make it a pure, low-cost coking coal company, which we have to put in the global market," he said.

He said the new owners expected to "navigate through this difficult time" in the short term, aiming to make the mines more sustainable and profitable in the long term.

The company had already cut costs by shedding 60 workers earlier this year, and Mr Singh did not rule out further redundancies as part of his future plans.

"Presently we have not thought about it, but we really want that the business has to be sustainable on a long-term basis," he said.

Yesterday's meeting at the Quality Suite Pioneer Sands hotel and attended by about 20 shareholders, was vastly different to the dramatic meeting held at the same location last October.

Then, hundreds of workers angry at not being paid for weeks turned out to vote for Jindal Steel to take a majority stake in the company.

Some were forced to cycle to the meeting after running out of petrol money, while former chairman Arun Jagatramka arrived in his Bentley.

Mr Jagatramka did not make an appearance yesterday after he resigned from his position on the Gujarat NRE board last week.

Mr Singh said he was not in a position to comment on Mr Jagatramka's decision to resign, but noted he had not yet been replaced on the company board.

Further, it remains unclear whether the company's new name will affect the naming rights of the Wollongong NRE Hawks basketball team as they play out the rest of the season.

Mr Singh said he had not yet spoken to the team about naming rights, but it is understood there are no plans to rebrand the Hawks for their final four games.

He said Wollongong Coal would be looking at all costs in the future, including its commitment to the Hawks.

"We have not really thought of that and we will work out what needs to be done now," he said.

"We are looking at everything in totality and one of the issues is obviously Wollongong Hawks."

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