About this content

The following is a literature review of key studies on global coal finance. Additional information and findings of many more studies can be found in the full report and bibliography. The research is current to 30 November 2017.

Scale of the coal industry

Coal mining

Coal power

Who owns the coal industry?

Coal mining

The IEA estimate 15% of global coal production to be coking coal and the remaining 85% thermal coal.

Influence Map provides information about the ownership of 1/2 of the total global thermal coal production, constituting 117 listed companies, with the ownership of the remaining 1/2 unknown. 

Influence map divides investors into "Strategic" investors (e.g. governments, power companies) that have a reason to be invested beyond a financial return, and "Non-Strategic" investors (e.g. fund managers) who are primarily seeking a return on equity. 

Non-strategic Investors in coal mining companies by coal reserves (M Tons)

Source: Influence Map, 2017

Investor Type Country Coal reserves (m tons)
1. Life Insurance Corporation of India State India 1,279
2. Fude Sino Life Insurance Private China 702
3. The Vanguard Group Private United States 462
4. BlackRock Institutional Trust Company Private United States 344
5. Dimensional Fund Advisors LP Private United States 334
6. HSZ (Hong Kong) Limited Private Hong Kong 288
7. Neuberger Berman LLC Private United States 191
8. Elara Capital Plc Private UK 177
9. Emerging India Fund Management Ltd Private Mauritius 170
10. Accipiter Capital Management Ltd Private United States 122
11. ICICI Prudential Asset Management Private India 107
12. M M Warburg Bank (Schweiz) AG Private Switzerland 99
13. Prosperity Capital Management State Russia 84
14. Templeton Asset Management Ltd Private Hong Kong 84
15. Fidelity Managment & Research Private United States 83
16. BlackRock Investment Management (UK) Private UK/US 79
17. Renaissance Technologies LLC Private United States 75
18. Tontine Asset Management LLC Private United States 72
19. Mangrove Partners Private United States 68
20. Capital World Investors Private United States 54
Example of strategic investor:
Central and local government, India State India 13,878

Influence Map provides information on the non-strategic investors. The largest non-strategic investors by coal reserve are listed in the table opposite. 

In comparison, listed is an example of a strategic investor, the Central and local Governments in India.

Coal power

Analysis of the companies representing half of global total by coal power expansion plans

Source: Global Coal Exit List, 2017

Graph below: 40 unlisted companies seeking to expand coal power, indicating country of headquarters and ownership status (as identified in the Global Coal Exit List)


Table below: top 20 shareholders of the 17 listed companies seeking to expand coal power (as identified in the Global Coal Exit List, data provided by GSCC)

Investor Type Country Amount (US$ bn)
1. Government of India State India $19.63
2. Shanghai Electric Group Private China $ 8.18
3. Korea Development Bank State South Korea $ 7.18
4. CRH Power Private China $ 5.87
5. Khazanah Nasional Bhd State Malaysia $ 5.60
6. Life Insurance Corporation of India State India $ 4.21
7. Ministry of Strategy and Finance Korea State South Korea $ 3.97
8. Poland State Treasury State Poland $ 3.52
9. Lawrencium Mikado Holdings Private Hong Kong $ 2.37
10. Adani Gautam Private India $ 2.26
11. OAK CLP Private Hong Kong $ 2.22
12. Employees Provident Fund State Malaysia $ 2.22
13. Vanguard Group Private USA $ 2.10
14. Government Pension Investment Fund Japan State Japan $ 1.93
15. Roseneftegaz State Russia $ 1.78
16. Lawrencium Holdings Private Hong Kong $ 1.73
17. Blackrock Fund Advisors Private USA $ 1.53
18. National Pension Service Korea State South Korea $ 1.42
19. INTER RAO Capital State Russia $ 1.35
20. Skim Amanah Saham Bumiputera State Malaysia $ 1.32

The role of corporate v project finance

Coal mining

Fossil fuel supply finance 2011 (IEA)
Balance sheet = 95%
Fossil fuel supply finance 2016 (IEA)
Balance sheet = 93%

According to International Energy Agency, World Energy Investment (2017), most coal mining investment takes the form of balance sheet (corporate) finance.

Coal power

Infrastructure Journal Global, 2017
International Energy Agency, World Energy Investment,
Thermal power generation finance 2011
Balance sheet = 83%
Thermal power generation finance 2016
Balance sheet = 78%

Note the contrasting conclusions in these two sources of information, indicating the difficulty in quantifying the split between project and balance sheet finance. However, both point to the dominant role of corporate finance in coal power.

Public and private debt finance

Coal mining


Commercial bank lending to coal mining, 2014-2016

Source: RAN, BankTrack, Oil Change, Sierra Club, Banking on Climate Change, 2017

Coal power


Commercial bank lending to coal power, 2014-2016

Source: RAN, BankTrack, Oil Change, Sierra Club, Banking on Climate Change 2017

Maturity of Loans and Bonds

Maturity Profiles of Bonds and Loans to Coal Mining Companies from 2017 to 2022

Source: Data provided by GSCC, 2017

Equity raising

Companies will often turn to the equity market to raise capital before seeking more debt finance, as the equity can be leveraged many times over. While equity is often sourced from existing shareholders, companies will seek additional investment through further share issuances. There is no comprehensive study on the role of equity raising in coal finance at this stage.

Trends: Corporate restructuring

Bankruptcies are clearly a sign of distress for coal mining companies, but do not mean the end of the companies or their operations. 

Rather, bankruptcies are often part of corporate restructuring during which operations can continue. The intention of a company emerging from bankruptcy is to be in a more secure and healthier financial state.  


Chart source: TR Eikon, 2017


Shenhua Group and China Guodian have merged, creating a company with a combined capacity portfolio of 221 to 225GW, and 500 million tons of coal per year.

Other major M&A activity includes:

  • Arclight acquisition of AEP’s power plants in US.
  • Vale sale of Mozambique coal mines to Mitsui.
  • Yancoal acquisition of Coal & Allied Industries.
  • Enel’s 10% stake in Bayan Resources acquired by the company’s founder.

Trends: Project bonds

At this stage, this debt instrument does not seem significant to global coal finance at present. However, companies may use more project bonds to raise debt

  • in Asia;
  • in refinancings; and
  • following the Basel III regulations coming into effect.
Anatomy of a Project Bond: Paiton Energy, US$2bn, August 2017

Source: Project Finance International, 2017

The breakdown of the investors in the 2010 loan:

The breakdown of the investors in the 2017 bond:

Could coal projects be financed by green bonds?
  • Voluntary Green Bonds Principles (which include renewable energy and pollution prevention and control) recommend external review.
  • ASEAN framework of green bonds standards specifically exclude funding of fossil fuels.
  • However, Chinese coal power plant producer Tianjin SDIC Jinneng Electric Power registered short-term "green bonds" on interbank market for $USD150M to finance a 2,000MW coal-fired power plant in Tianjin. 

Country by country

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Key takeaways

  • The nature of coal finance varies wildly between countries.
  • Importance of China and Chinese finance.
  • Importance of corporate or balance sheet finance.
  • In several key coal power growth markets, public finance unlocks commercial debt. 
  • In areas like India, Turkey, Australia, domestic banks are key.

Key studies

  • Investigates investment in fossil fuel sector selecting 17 fossil fuel companies and to 12 nuclear sector companies.
  • Looked at which financial institutions provided loans and underwriting to the fossil fuel sector, with Mizuho, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial providing the largest percentage of finance.
  • Available online.
  • Provides information on a country-by-country basis on the proven reserves, production and consumption.
  • Provides analysis of reserve to production ratios, production and consumption by region.
  • Maps coal prices in the region.
  • Available online.