Another Big Blow for the Future of Coal

August 6, 2019 by Jon C. Ogg

Apparently, coal is unpopular regardless of what presidential policies are in place. After coal was gutted in the Obama years, the Trump years may have been less critical but the outcome for the stocks have been less than attractive.

A new wave of downgrades from Jefferies put added pressure on coal on Tuesday. The firm has concerns about China under trade tensions and devaluation of the yuan, and even an expected construction slowdown in homebuilding activities.

According to Jefferies, most coal miners have used capital returns to attract investors, but the problem is the prioritization of share buybacks and dividends over new investment. Now there are is an expectation for declining earnings and lower free cash flow that may limit those capital returns. Without these companies supporting their own shares, and with the long-term trends of coal being down rather than up (secular that is), there is very little to like in the coal industry.

Arch Coal Inc. (NYSE: ARCH) was downgraded to Hold from Buy and the price target was cut to $80 from $115 at Jefferies. The stock was trading down 2.4% to $75.36 on Tuesday, and its new 52-week range is $75.00 to $101.92.

BHP Group Ltd. (NYSE: BHP) was downgraded to Hold from Buy, after it closed down 3.1% at $50.43, and with a prior consensus target price of $50.28. The shares were down 0.7% at $50.05.

CONSOL Coal Resources L.P. (NYSE: CCR) was downgraded to Hold from Buy and the price target was cut to $16 from $20.

Peabody Energy Corp. (NYSE: BTU) was downgraded to Hold from Buy and the price target was slashed to $18 from $27. Shares traded down 2.2% at $17.65, in a 52-week range of $17.56 to $44.71.

Ramaco Resources Inc. (NASDAQ: METC) was downgraded to Hold from Buy and the target was cut to $5.00 from $8.50. The shares were down 2.7% at $3.94 after the downgrade, in a 52-week range of $3.91 to $8.94.

Rio Tinto PLC (NYSE: RIO) was downgraded to Hold from Buy at Jefferies. The American depositary shares closed down 2.1% at $52.14 on Monday, and the consensus target price was $64.04.

Warrior Met Coal Inc. (NYSE: HCC) also was downgraded to Hold from Buy, and the price target was slashed to $22 from $38. The stock was down 4.5% at $20.51 on Tuesday.

While some of this may feel late, it still seems to be a bit puzzling that an analyst would have had Buy ratings on companies like this. Regardless of politics and regardless of who will be in office in 2020, 2024 and all the way out to 2040, most utilities have continued to project increasingly lower usage of coal as a source for creating electricity in the future.


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