MARKETS

Peabody denies reports of Aussie assets sale

PEABODY Energy has refuted media reports that it has appointed a corporate adviser for the sale of its Australian coal assets as its shares continue to be punished on the New York Stock Exchange.

Lou Caruana
Peabody denies reports of Aussie assets sale

A company spokeswoman told ICN: "Peabody’s leadership has been open about its strategy to sell non-core assets, however there is currently no plan to for the company to withdraw from Australia nor have we retained the services of [corporate advisor] Bank of America Merrill Lynch in this regard."

The spokeswoman added there would be significant interest in Peabody's Australian portfolio of coal operations in Queensland and New South Wales given the quality of assets and declining $A dollar but there are no plans to sell at this stage.

The American coal giant saw its shares plunge to below $1 last week from its highs of $70 four years ago as it struggles under a mountain of debt and low coal prices.

Its Australian assets include the Queensland coal mines that it bought from Macarthur Coal in 2011 for about $5 billion.

The Peabody spokeswoman previously told ICN: “As noted in our April earnings release, Peabody is advancing a strategic review of our portfolio of Australia tenements as part of a heightened emphasis on portfolio optimisation."

Peabody Energy chief financial officer Amy Schwetz confirmed that Burton remained an underperforming asset in its suite of Australian coal mines.

“We also expect to make additional improvements to the [Australian] platform,” she said.

“During the quarter, the Burton mine added several dollars per tonne of costs to our metallurgical segment and we will evaluate the loss-making Burton mine life beyond the middle of 2016.”

Metallurgical coal volumes declined by 17% mainly due to the planned reduction at the contractor-operated Burton mine and the end-of-life closure of the Eaglefield Mine in late 2014.

Australian adjusted EBITDA rose by more than $US50 million to $56 million as lower costs more than offset a reduction in volume and a $90 million price impact.

“Australian costs per tonne declined by over $20 to $52 per tonne with the majority of the benefit from lower currency and fuel prices,” Schwetz said.

“This performance offers a solid demonstration of how Peabody benefits from our Australian platform, apart from the effects of currency hedges.”

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