Peabody posts 3Q loss on weaker pricing - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Peabody posts 3Q loss on weaker pricing

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JIM SUHR, AP Business Writer

 

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Coal miner Peabody Energy Corp. reported a loss for the third quarter on weaker prices for coal used to make steel. Wall Street still embraced the results and sent shares of the belt-tightening company higher.

The world's biggest private-sector coal company said Thursday that its loss attributable to common shareholders was $26.1 million, or 10 cents per share, for the July-through-September period compared with net income of $42.9 million, or 16 cents per share, a year ago.

St. Louis-based Peabody's revenue fell 13 percent to $1.80 billion from $2.06 billion.

Adjusted income from continuing operations was 5 cents per share, down 48 cents from a year ago. Analysts polled by FactSet expected a loss of 3 cents per share on revenue of $1.79 billion.

Stern Agee analyst Michael Dudas and Cowen & Co.'s Daniel Scott, in separate research notes to clients, called Peabody's latest showing "impressive," and the company's shares rose $1.50, or 8.4 percent, to $19.39 in Thursday morning trading.

Peabody says it expects adjusted diluted earnings per share of 27 to 45 cents for the year, excluding any impact of the tentative settlement announced last week with bankrupt spinoff Patriot Coal Corp. and the United Mine Workers of America.

As part of that deal, pending approval next month by a St. Louis judge overseeing Patriot's quest to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Peabody will spend $310 million over four years to fund retiree health care benefits and provide about $140 million in letters of credit to Patriot, which Peabody spun off in 2007.

That settlement resolves a festering dispute between the St. Louis-based companies that intensified after Patriot filed for bankruptcy last year. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kathy Surratt-States ruled in May that Peabody was not obligated to continue health care benefits for some 3,100 retirees, only to be reversed in August by an 8th U.S. Court of Appeals bankruptcy panel.

Peabody said it sold 69.1 million tons of coal during the third quarter — up from 66.6 million tons a year ago — even as U.S. electricity producers continue burning down their coal stockpiles and relatively low prices of natural gas also used by utilities squeezes demand and pricing for competing coal.

Peabody, which still expects this year's per-ton U.S. revenues to be 5 to 10 percent lower than last year, increased its full-year sales forecast to 245 million to 255 million tons, up from its second-quarter expectation of 230 million to 250 million tons. The latest outlook includes 185 million to 190 million tons in the U.S. and 34 million to 36 million tons in Australia, in both cases an increase on the lower end of the forecasts.

Peabody shaved the upper end of its full-year capital spending target by $50 million to a range of $350 million to $400 million.

Peabody's earnings are closely watched because the company usually is among the first of the coal sector's big players to report earnings each quarter. It gives analysts and investors a snapshot of the industry's health, including an outlook for thermal coal demand used to produce electricity.

 

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