Money and coal

HOGSBACK knows that money does not grow on trees, which is more than you can say for some environmentalists who have no idea where the nation’s prosperity comes from.
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A quick look at the balance sheets of some of Australia's mining companies can shed light on how pivotal coal is to the economy.  

In the past week, the world's biggest miner, BHP, announced a special dividend to its thousands of shareholders.

BHP is a global company with assets in a number of sectors, including iron ore, oil and gas, and both metallurgical and thermal coal.

After diving into the accounts of the huge conglomerate, Hogsback was struck by the very strong contribution coal plays to both its revenues and earnings.

BHP's annual coal revenues for FY2019 increased to US$9.1 billion from $8.8 billion for the previous corresponding period as the company continued to ramp up production from its Queensland and New South Wales operations.

Coal was the company's second biggest contributor to BHP's underlying earnings after iron ore at $3.4 billion for FY2019.

Coal, both the metallurgical variety in Queensland's Bowen Basin, and the less popular thermal coal, is doing the heavy lifting for one of Australia's largest companies and mum and dad investors across the land are receiving the benefits through generous dividends.

This week South32, which was spun off from BHP, also revealed its profits. Once again it was coal that performed while other commodity sectors lagged.

South32's Illawarra Metallurgical Coal subsidiary was once considered the ugly duckling of the group.

However, under the steadfast management of Jason Economidis, the company is turning around and delivering solid returns.

It has increased underlying earnings by $421 million in FY19 to $359 million as stronger sales volumes and lower labour costs kicked in and reversed a previous loss.

Illawarra Metallurgical Coal is a major employer in regional NSW even if there has been some blood-letting along the way. When it does well, ultimately so does the local community and local businesses.

This is just another example of how a coal mining company that is in growth mode can deliver for real financial returns for communities and shareholders living in the real world.