Alpha acquires Nicewonder Coal Group

IN A $US316.2 million dollar deal, leading coal producer Alpha Natural Resources announced September 26 that it will acquire Nicewonder Coal Group and its eight entities, thereby increasing its anticipated 2006 production by some 20%.

Donna Schmidt

Privately held Nicewonder’s coal reserves and operations, all located in southern West Virginia and south-west Virginia, will add approximately 4.3 million tons to Alpha’s expected output next year. Additionally, the transaction – made up of $US60 million Alpha common stock and $US256 million in cash and seller notes – is likely to be accretive to earnings, which could increase Alpha’s operating results.

Included in the Nicewonder units Alpha is acquiring are eight surface mining properties, including Premium Energy (high-Btu, low sulphur); White Flame Energy and Mate Creek Energy (low sulphur-compliance coal and a rail facility on a Norfolk Southern line); Twin Star, Buchanan Energy and Virginia Energy (on 28,000 acres of land, Buchanan has access to untapped coal reserves); and Powers Shop (mining equipment repair).

Also included in the deal is Nicewonder Contracting (NCI), a road construction operation that collaborates with the Virginia Department of Transportation to recover coal removed during construction projects.

“The Nicewonder coal group is highly regarded in this industry for having well-managed businesses with low production costs, minimal legacy liabilities, high quality coal reserves and excellent relationships with its work force and customer base,” said Alpha president Mike Quillan.

“These are precisely the kind of asset qualities we've been seeking for Alpha's future growth, and I expect this acquisition to make a meaningful contribution to our earnings and cash flow going forward.”

Nicewonder owner Don Nicewonder expressed similar sentiments, saying the agreement was a great fit for its properties and people.

“They [Alpha] know coal mining, they respect and take care of their people, and they have exceptional marketing reach around the world. I believe this transaction will ensure a bright future for this business that I have spent the better part of 30 years building, and I’m taking a significant equity stake in Alpha so that our interests are aligned with one another.”