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SunCoke (SXC) to Shed Coal Mining Assets amid Weak Prices

SunCoke Energy, Inc. SXC has decided to downsize its coal mining business amid persistent softness in coal demand and prices. The company will divest its coal mining assets to Revelation Energy, LLC in a transaction that covers all of its remaining coal mining assets, mineral leases, real estate and mining reclamation costs. The mining assets acquired by Revelation are primarily located in Buchanan and Tazewell counties in southwest Virginia.

Details of the Plan

As per the deal, Revelation Energy will receive approximately $10.3 million from SunCoke Energy for taking ownership of the assets and associated costs. In addition, Revelation Energy has inked a coal supply agreement with SunCoke Energy to deliver nearly 300,000 tons high-quality metallurgical coal to the latter’s Jewell Coke facility annually over five years at reasonable costs compared to alternative coal sources.

The transaction is expected to be cash flow neutral to SunCoke Energy by the end of 2017 based on avoided potential mine closures and reclamation costs of approximately $12 million. In addition, SunCoke Energy expects administrative, regulatory, compliance and purchased coal costs to fall by nearly $2–$3 million annually through 2020. Moreover, this deal will reduce SunCoke’s mining-related liabilities and collateral requirements.

Management has been aggressively trying to cut costs by rationalizing the company’s mining footprint due to the persistent and sharp decline in coal prices, which, in turn, has been preventing the company from generating positive cash flow. The latest downsizing, however, is expected to boost cash flows over the long run. In fact, SunCoke will be able to generate significant cost savings, compared to the cash loss it would have incurred if it had continued with its coal mining business.

How are Other Coal Miners Coping?

Coal was the major fuel source for generation of electricity in the U.S. However, increasingly stringent emission control rules and the growing popularity of cheaper and clean burning natural gas and alternate energy sources have resulted in a slump in coal demand.

To cope with such challenging conditions, Peabody Energy Corporation BTU had to resort to reducing the headcount by 235 at its North Antelope Rochelle Mine in the Powder River Basin. Meanwhile, coal and natural gas operator CONSOL Energy Inc. CNX announced the spin-off of its Buchanan Mine in southwestern Virginia and certain other metallurgical coal reserves to Coronado IV LLC for a consideration of $420 million to counter the weak market. The company also decided to suspend dividend payments in a move that disappointed investors. In addition, miners like Peabody and Natural Resource Partners LP NRP have resorted to reverse stock splits in order to keep their stocks listed on the exchange.

SunCoke Energy currently carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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