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Coal India, the country's biggest coal producer, has hired Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, Royal Bank of Canada and Royal Bank of Scotland to help it make deals as it hunts for coal assets overseas, a company official told Reuters.

"We are in talks with three listed companies from Indonesia, Australia and U.S.A., while the potential investment could be in the tune of $1.8 billion," N.C. Jha, director of technical operations at Coal India, said.

Bank of America-Merrill is advising on possible deals in Australia, while Royal Bank of Canada and Royal Bank of Scotland are helping it in Indonesia and the United States, respectively, he said.

Estimated reserves from the three firms total about 1 billion tonnes of coal, Jha said.

State-run Coal India has said it has shortlisted 10 major coal producers across the three countries, with some deals likely to be signed in the current financial year.

U.S. miner Peabody Energy Corp is one of five companies in which Coal India is considering buying equity stakes or for mining joint ventures, the chairman of the Indian company said last week.

India's coal supplies do not meet growing demand from the power, steel and cement sectors, and difficulties in setting up new mines have led companies to look overseas to secure supplies.

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