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Australia's Asciano Mum on Capital Raising Rumors

Shares in Asciano dived almost 60 percent on Tuesday on speculation Australia's top port and rail operator was planning to raise capital to pay down debt and fund growth.

The company declined to comment on whether it was planning a capital raising, saying that it was focusing on a full or partial sale of its assets. Its shares were put on a trading halt after the tumble prompted a query from the stock exchange.

"We are in the monetisation process, where we are looking at part or full sale of one of our assets. And we are well progressed in that. So we understand the need to address our capital structure and that's what we are in the process of doing," an Asciano spokeswoman said.

She declined to name the asset under put up for sale, but several media reports have said the company was looking to sell its coal business.

In a research note on Tuesday, Merrill Lynch estimated Asciano could get up to A$900 million ($604 million) for a 50 percent stake in its coal haulage business.

Merrill Lynch said Asciano wants to sell a stake in the coal haulage business because it cannot fund the A$3 billion in capex the business needs over the next 10 years by itself.

In August, Asciano rejected an unsolicited A$2.9 billion takeover offer from a private equity consortium, consisting of TPG Capital.

Chairman Tim Poole said in October TPG may seek further discussions, but nothing had been
agreed. Adding to the downward pressure on the stock, broker Citi on Tuesday lowered its rating on Asciano to sell from buy due to near-term risks facing the group.