Austral reports $7.31 million profit on record production

AUSTRAL Coal has made a strong start to the calendar year, with net profit for the first six months 75% above its 2001 full-year profit on the back of record production of 1.23 million ROM tonnes and sales of 897,000t of clean coal.

Staff Reporter

A major refurbishment of the longwall system improved efficiency and reliability and the longwall was operated for a half day on both Saturdays and Sundays in addition to normal operations, increasing operating time, reducing downtimes to historical lows and increasing production.

Revenue from ordinary activities was up 73% on the previous year to a record $60.9 million driven by buoyant sales and higher coking coal prices. Net cash flow from operating activities was up 125% to $10.3 million.

Austral said the increased productivity and strong demand for coking coal resulted in a heavy shipment schedule, particularly in the second quarter, lifting sales to a record level. Average contract prices were up 25% following last year's turnaround in the coking coal market.

"Directors remain positive regarding the company's future profitability as the market for coking coal is very buoyant and price increases have been secured from a number of the company's major customers consistent with the general market movement for hard coking coal," Austral managing director Ugo Cario said.

"Directors are confident of achieving the $13 million profit forecast for 2002 despite a scheduled and extended longwall changeover being undertaken in the second half."

This changeover is associated with the movement of the longwall system to a different longwall domain adjacent to Tahmoor North and the commissioning of the new North West conveyor system.

During the half-year cash resources were supplemented by a $30 million new equity raising, drawdown of an $18 million syndicated debt facility and a $6 million equipment lease facility. At balance date cash reserves stood at $27.2 million.

Cario said the company remained committed to future growth through the Tahmoor North development with expenditure and commitments on major capital infrastructure and operating equipment accelerating to $21.7 million during the half year.

Construction of the new $12.3 million 4000tph high-capacity North West conveyor is complete and ready for commissioning during the current longwall changeover. The tender for the new longwall system has been distributed to potential suppliers and work on tenders for the upgrade of the coal preparation plant and drift belt are on schedule.

Two new JOY 12CM30 continuous miners were delivered and commissioned during the period at a cost of $5.9 million. The new miners will provide a quantum jump in mine development rates in accessing the Tahmoor North reserves.

A number of initiatives aimed at securing funding for the acquisition of a new high capacity longwall system to mine the Tahmoor North reserves continue to be progressed with several parties now engaged in final due diligence.

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