Eskom has threatened to stop buying coal from Exxaro if it is no longer more than half black-owned.
"Eskom notes media reports that Exxaro’s black shareholding could be reduced to about 30% following the expiry of an agreement with its black economic empowerment partners," the utility said in a statement on Monday.
"Eskom will soon ask for a meeting with Exxaro in an effort to understand how they plan to comply with the 50%-plus policy requirements."
On November 22, Exxaro issued a Sens announcement saying MS333, an empowerment vehicle created 10 years ago, intended to cash in its 50.19% shareholding.
At Monday’s market capitalisation of about R30.8bn, MSS333’s stake would be worth R15.4bn.
Exxaro said the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), which owns 15% of MS333, had agreed to invest in a replacement empowerment vehicle provisionally called "NewBEEco".
The IDC has also agreed to provide a debt guarantee for up to R700m to help new black shareholders buy some of MS333’s shares.
As part of the deal, Exxaro said it intended to repurchase and cancel about R3.5bn of its shares from MS333.
What is actually happening is that the ongoing legacy of the pre-1994 economy is being confronted by the Eskom leadership
Eskom interim CEO Matshela Koko said in Monday’s statement: "Eskom’s policy of sourcing coal from majority black-owned suppliers is a thorn in the side of many of the company’s main coal suppliers. These suppliers subscribe to a ‘once empowered always empowered’ principle, and a black ownership target of 26% rather than a minimum of 50% black ownership.
"What is actually happening is that the ongoing legacy of the pre-1994 economy is being confronted by the Eskom leadership.
"This is the legacy that we have not worked hard enough to dismantle, and at times have been frightened to confront. Eskom has resolved to do something radically different."