Smooth sailing for Peabody

RECORD revenues in 2008 have set the world’s largest private sector coal company, Peabody Energy, on a steady path in a volatile 2009 with the company saying it will not be afraid to look for “opportunistic transactions” with other struggling companies.
Smooth sailing for Peabody Smooth sailing for Peabody Smooth sailing for Peabody Smooth sailing for Peabody Smooth sailing for Peabody

Courtesy Peabody Australia.

Angie Tomlinson

Peabody posted record 2008 EBITDA from continuing operations of $US1.85 billion, nearly doubling 2007 levels.

Income of more than $984.8 million more than doubled 2007 levels, while revenue from coal sales of 256 million tonnes rose 45% to $6.59 billion.

“Amid challenging near-term markets, we enter 2009 with a sound financial position and will pursue opportunities to further strengthen the portfolio," Peabody chief executive Gregory Boyce said.

Earlier this month Peabody announced it would make 2Mt of production cuts in Australia and a 10Mt reduction in the USA’s Powder River Basin.

President Richard Navarre said trimmed targets had allowed the company to enter 2009 with a highly committed book of business.

“We believe the ultimate recovery could be strong, as global economic and electricity generation growth resumes, at the same time that geologic and regulatory hurdles and lack of available capital limit a supply response," Navarre said.

Peabody has 4-5Mt of its Australian metallurgical coal and 5-6Mt of its Australian thermal coal yet to be priced for the last three quarters of 2009.

In the US production is essentially sold out for 2009, with the company capitalising on the strong markets in mid-2008 to price about 75% of its 2010 US production.

Peabody has targeted 2009 output of 190-195Mt in the US and 22-24Mt in Australia.

This year the company said it would focus on strong cost control and productivity improvements and increasing contributions from high-margin operations and exercise tight capital discipline.

It said it would also look for opportunistic transactions in key growth markets amid distressed conditions.

“While the world faces significant near-term economic challenges, Peabody's middle to long-term outlook remains positive," Boyce said.

“We believe that inventories will rebalance, steel demand will recover, new coal plants will come online and existing plants will run at higher utilisation, while difficult geology and lack of capital access will deplete supply and limit infrastructure development.

“As recent global outlooks have forecast, nations will continue to turn to coal in increasing quantities, and Peabody remains best positioned in the industry to serve this growing demand."

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