Peabody Joins Coal Mining Bankruptcy Parade

The world’s largest private-sector coal company is seeking to recover from a "substantial debt burden amid a historically challenged industry."
Katie Kuehner-HebertApril 13, 2016

Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private-sector coal company, has filed for bankruptcy protection, becoming the latest energy concern to succumb to the prolonged slump in commodity prices.

Producers accounting for about 45% of U.S. coal output have entered bankruptcy since the industry downturn began in mid-2014, according to Reuters.

Peabody on Wednesday filed Chapter 11 petitions for the majority of its U.S. entities. The company has $10.1 billion in debt, much of it incurred for an expansion into Australia.

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“Through today’s action, we will seek an in-court solution to Peabody’s substantial debt burden amid a historically challenged industry backdrop,” Peabody CEO Glenn Kellow said in a news release.

“This process enables us to strengthen liquidity and reduce debt, build upon the significant operational achievements we’ve made in recent years and lay the foundation for long-term stability and success in the future,” he added.

As part of the process, Peabody has obtained $800 million in debtor-in-possession financing. It also announced that the planned sale of its New Mexico and Colorado assets was terminated after the buyer was unable to complete the transaction.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, the coal industry’s setbacks have been especially damaging in Wyoming, where Peabody has its largest mining operations, and Appalachia.

“The miner hit particularly hard times after the price for thermal coal used in power stations and metallurgical coal used in steelmaking collapsed last year, leaving the company struggling to pare back its heavy debt burden,” the WSJ said. “Both thermal coal and metallurgical coal prices have fallen to a decade low.”

Peabody has also taken a hit from its acquisition in 2011 of Australia’s Macarthur Coal for $5.1 billion, which was meant to position it as a supplier of metallurgical coal for Asian steel mills.

“It is the debtors’ belief that the relief provided by chapter 11 will enable them to continue to restructure their debt and operations while riding out the storm that has beset the coal industry,” Peabody CFO Amy Schwetz said in a court document.

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