Can Peabody Dividend, Earnings Beat Offset Tame Outlook?
Peabody Energy Corp. (NYSE: BTU) reported fourth-quarter and full-year 2017 results before markets opened Wednesday. The coal miner’s diluted earnings per share (EPS) came in at $2.47 on revenues of $1.52 billion for the quarter. In the same period a year ago, Peabody reported a loss per share (EPS) of $3.68 on revenues of $1.44 billion. Consensus estimates called for EPS of $1.35 on revenues of $1.51 billion.
For the full year, Peabody reported EPS of $3.81 on revenues of $5.58 billion, compared with 2016 revenues of its predecessor company of $4.72 billion and a net loss of $36.72. Analysts were calling for revenues of $5.54 billion. 2017 revenues include one quarter of results as Peabody’s predecessor. The company exited bankruptcy in April 2017.
The company’s Australian operations rose 4%, and pricing for Australian metallurgical and thermal coal improved. Shipments from the Powder River Basin rose 11%.
CEO Glenn Kellow said:
Fourth quarter results reflect strong operational performance, significant cash generation and debt repayment, meaningful release of restricted cash and continued share repurchases, and we have much more progress targeted for 2018. Much of our substantial 2017 cash flows were properly committed to debt reduction and reducing other obligations. We enter 2018 with a strong balance sheet, lower interest expense, minimal taxes, ability to liberate restricted cash, a newly initiated dividend, a simplified capital structure and strong cash flows that we intend to use to further unlock value for our shareholders.
Peabody announced a quarterly dividend of $0.115 per share this morning and reported share buybacks totaling $176 million for the year. The company has a $500 million buyback program in place.
In its outlook statement, the company said it is targeting seaborne thermal and met coal volumes in line with 2017 shipments. U.S. volumes from the Powder River Basin are expected to be modestly lower. Capital spending is pegged at around $105 million, of which $85 million is targeted at Australian operations for life extension projects.
Analysts estimates call for EPS of $1.69 in the company’s first fiscal quarter of 2018, on revenues of $1.42 billion. For the full year, analysts are forecasting EPS of $4.06 and revenues of $5.38 billion.
The domestic market for thermal coal is expected to be no better than flat this year, and any improvements in either volumes or pricing will come from abroad.
Shares of Peabody traded early Wednesday at $39.89. The company’s 52-week range is $22.58 to $41.17, and the consensus 12-month price target on the stock is $47.00. When Peabody exited bankruptcy and resumed trading last April, shares came out at $31.50.