The mainland's five state-owned national power generation groups are seeking to import more coal to enhance their bargaining power with coal producers, amid an impasse in annual contract negotiations. An official at Datang Power International, the listed unit of China Datang Group, confirmed that the Big Five were engaging in talks to procure coal from overseas but said he was not aware of any finalised deal. The power majors aimed to buy 1 million tonnes of power-station coal from Australia, the China Securities Journal reported. The amount is minimal compared with the more than 300 million tonnes of coal contracts targeted by the industry policy planner to be signed by the five groups this year and total expected demand of more than 500 million tonnes. Datang alone needed 80 million tonnes this year, but only two of its coastal plants would find imported coal economical, the official said. The other groups involved are China Guodian Corp, China Huadian Corp, China Huaneng Group and China Power Investment Corp. China imported about 40 million tonnes of coal last year. 'It's a bit of posturing amid the negotiation deadlock,' said a power industry official. Analysts said given limited overseas supply and that only coastal power plants would find imported coal economical, the pressure on coal companies was limited. Nomura Securities analyst Donovan Huang said coal from Australia arriving at Guangzhou cost slightly more than the 680 yuan (HK$772) per tonne cost of domestic coal transported from northern China to Guangzhou. However, coal arriving from Vietnam would be cheaper at 540 yuan per tonne. Coal from Indonesia cost 650 yuan per tonne, Mr Huang said. Coal companies are asking for a price rise of up to 82 yuan per tonne or 17 per cent, but the five power groups have demanded a reduction of 50 yuan.