Arch Coal Expects Improved Shipments, Earnings in 2013

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Arch Coal Inc. (NYSE: ACI) reported first-quarter 2013 results before markets opened this morning. For the quarter, the coal miner posted an adjusted diluted earnings per share (EPS) loss of $0.34 on revenues of $825.5 million. In the same period a year ago, the company reported an EPS loss of $0.04 on revenues of $1.04 billion. First-quarter results also compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for an EPS loss of $0.34 EPS and $913.24 million in revenues.

On a GAAP basis, the company’s net loss totaled $0.33 per share.

The 18-month decline in coal shipments and coal pricing have taken a heavy toll on the coal miners. Last week Peabody Energy Co. (NYSE: BTU) reported a smaller-than-expected loss of $0.05 per share, and the company’s stock rose more than 3%. Something similar likely will happen with Arch Coal’s stock today.

The company’s CEO said:

Despite the global coal market headwinds that have prevailed over the last 18 months, we are delivering strong cost control, exercising capital restraint and minimizing cash outflows in the trough of the market cycle … Globally, we believe metallurgical and thermal coal markets are in the process of stabilizing, and we anticipate gradual improvement as we progress through the remainder of the year.

The improvement Arch Coal sees is a function of depleting stockpiles at power generating plants as natural gas prices rise. That is good for the miners, but the process is slow and Arch Coal expects the rest of 2013 to present a story of (very) slow growth mainly as a result of cost reduction.

Arch Coal has maintained its earlier forecast of 125 million to 135 million tons of thermal coal shipments for the year, but it has lowered its cash cost estimates both in the Powder River Basin and in Appalachia. The company expects to ship 8 million to 9 million tons of metallurgical coal in 2013 and has already received commitments for 6.5 million tons, of which 61.1 million tons is priced at about $91 a ton.

The company’s shares are up 1% in premarket trading at $4.94 in a 52-week range of $4.47 to $10.26. Thomson Reuters had a consensus analyst price target of around $7.50 before today’s report.

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