Walter embraces coal, not homebuilding or finance

WALTER Energy, last week known as Walter Industries, is reaping rewards from its renewed focus on coal, reporting healthy jumps in net income, revenues and operating income for the first quarter.
Walter embraces coal, not homebuilding or finance Walter embraces coal, not homebuilding or finance Walter embraces coal, not homebuilding or finance Walter embraces coal, not homebuilding or finance Walter embraces coal, not homebuilding or finance

An employee of Walter Energy. Courtesy Walter.

Donna Schmidt

For the period ended March 31, the company’s net income was $US73.1 million, versus just $500,000 in the first quarter of 2008.

The company noted that its soon-to-be-discontinued business areas of financing and homebuilding were included in that number.

Net sales and revenues for the three-month period were $343 million, up from $292.6 million in the same quarter last year.

The company cited a 57% increase in realised metallurgical coal prices and higher coal sales volumes for the growth, plus a 41% increase in revenues for the natural resources and energy businesses alone.

Walter’s operating income totalled $108.1 million, compared to 2008’s first quarter result of $97.7 million.

Its underground mining operations alone realised an $80.5 million revenue increase, but Walter said that total was offset slightly by lower results in its metallurgical coke segment.

“We have completed our transformation into a ‘pure play’ natural resources and energy company, and this quarter demonstrates the potential of this portfolio of businesses to deliver substantial value,” Walter chairman Michael Tokarz said.

Coming with the recent rebranding of the company, Torkarz said the natural resources business segment would now have underground mining and surface mining classifications, and the underground mining side of the business would encompass both metallurgical coal mining and natural gas operations.

Within the underground mining division, Walter said its coal sales for the quarter were 1.8Mt at an average $133.24/t free on board, versus 1.5Mt at an average $84.86 year-on-year. Walter credited favourable contract pricing for the spike.

“Our metallurgical coal mines ran well during the quarter, with production totalling nearly 2 million tons,” Jim Walter Resources (Walter subsidiary) CEO George Richmond said.

“In addition, we overcame infrastructure challenges to achieve significantly better-than-expected sales in the quarter.”

Production at its No. 4 operation totalled 800,000t, a drop of 200,000t from the previous year.

Costs per ton were up $13.33/t during the period to $49.36/t, but Richmond noted a longwall move had affected performance.

Sister mine No. 7 saw 1.2Mt in production during the first quarter, having run two longwalls during that timeframe. It mined 1Mt in the previous year’s period.

The volume increase at that operation brought production costs down, to $53.38/t in the first quarter compared to $67.36/t year-on-year.

Walter said its metallurgical coal production was expected to total about 1.2Mt in the coming quarter as it worked to balance demand with a production schedule that included a reduction in operating days.

Due to the continued volatility of the market, officials indicated the start-up of the No. 7 East longwall would probably not come to fruition until the first month of next year.

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