UPDATE 2-Coal miner Peabody’s profit beats views; stock up
Stock rises 3 percent (Recasts; adds CEO and analyst comments, stock movement)NEW YORK, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Peabody Energy Corp (BTU.N), which operates coal mines in the United States and Australia, reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit on Tuesday and said it was expanding its exports into lucrative Asian markets.The company benefited from strong revenue, and its shares rose 3 percent."It was great across the board, in U.S. and Australian operations and in Peabody’s trading platform," said analyst Jeremy Sussman of Brean Murray Carret & Co."Clearly Peabody is benefitting from increased Asian demand," he said. "They raised Australian (production) guidance, and they will be shipping more from there."Chief Executive Officer Gregory Boyce said Peabody’s near-term focus "remains serving the high-growth Pacific markets as we expand our Australian volumes and global trading activities."Peabody said global steel production, which uses metallurgical coal, is expected to increase 9 percent in 2010, with continued growth from China and India.In the markets for thermal or steam coal, which is used for power generation, Australia’s Newcastle thermal coal index has increased 40 percent in the past quarter, to about $100 per tonne, the company noted."Thermal coal demand in the Pacific is growing rapidly," the company said in its earnings release. "Global generation growth is expected to rise approximately 5 percent in 2010."The St Louis-based company said fourth-quarter net income fell to $92.2 million, or 34 cents per share, from $293.1 million, or $1.09 per share, a year earlier.Excluding items, profit from continuing operations was 43 cents per share. Analysts on average were expecting 29 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.Revenue fell to $1.55 billion from $1.89 billion, said Peabody, whose coal fuels about 10 percent of U.S. electricity generation. Wall Street had forecast $1.47 billion.For 2010, Peabody said it was targeting total sales of 240 million to 260 million tons, compared with 243.6 million in 2009 and 255.0 million in 2008.The company said it expected Australian sales to increase to 26 million to 28 million tons, including 7.5 million to 8.5 million tons of metallurgical coal and 12.5 million to 13.0 million tons of thermal exports. It forecast U.S. volume at 185 million to 195 million tons.