This week, Peabody Energy (NYSE:BTU) became the latest in a long line of coal producers to file for bankruptcy protection in the US.
The move is perhaps even more significant this time, since Peabody is the world’s largest private-sector coal producer (it gets beat out by state-controlled producers such as China Shenhua Energy Company and Coal India).
Peabody cited a prolonged downturn in coal prices as the major driver behind its bankruptcy filing, and to be sure, both thermal coal prices and metallurgical coal prices have seen better days.
Metallurgical coal prices have fallen roughly 75 percent since 2011, according to Bloomberg, and analysts are not expecting a turnaround anytime soon. “The outlook for coal players remains bleak,” Sandra Chow Singapore-based credit analyst told the news agency. “Any recovery remains a long way from here.”
Other coal producers who have filed for bankruptcy protection in the past two years include:
- Alpha Natural Resources (OTCMKTS:ANRZQ)
- Walter Energy (OTCMKTS:WLTGQ)
- Patriot Coal
- Arch Coal (OTCMKTS:ACIIQ)
- James River Coal
Still, Peabody stressed that it expects its operations to continue in light of the announcement, and that its Australian platform would not be a part of the filing.
“This was a difficult decision, but it is the right path forward for Peabody. We begin today to build a highly successful global leader for tomorrow,” said Peabody President and Chief Executive Officer Glenn Kellow in a statement. “Through today’s action, we will seek an in-court solution to Peabody’s substantial debt burden amid a historically challenged industry backdrop.”
Interestingly, billionaire George Soros made headlines last August on news that he had spent over $2 million buying up shares of both Peabody and Arch Coal.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Teresa Matich, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.