All posts from Zacks
Zacks in Our Research. Your Success.,

Will Reverse Unit Split Come to Rhino Resource's Rescue?

Another coal miner Rhino Resource Partners LP RHNO announced its plan to go for a reverse unit split. The board of directors of its general partner approved a 1-for-10 reverse unit split. The partnership expects the reverse stock split to take effect from the close of business on Apr 18, 2016.

The partnership will trade on the exchange on a stock adjusted basis from Apr 19. The number of outstanding units of Rhino Resources will be reduced from nearly 76.9 million to 7.7 million.

All fractional units created by the reverse unit split will be rounded off to the nearest whole unit, as per Rhino Resource’s partnership agreement.

Will the Strategy Work?

This question will obviously haunt investors still having a stake in the coal space. The failed attempts at reverse stock split of companies like Arch Coal and Peabody Energy Corporation will definitely make investors skeptical about the viability of this move.

The reverse stock split will invariably boost the unit price of Rhino Resources from current levels. Rhino Resource closed at 33 cents of Friday, which is down nearly 85.6% year over year. Will Rhino Resources’ units be able to hold on to the unit adjusted price?

Increasing usage of cheap natural gas and stringent emission regulations can be blamed for the dismal state of the U.S. coal industry. Old coal operated power plants are being forced to shut down operations. As a result, the partnership has seen a steady drop in coal sales volume accompanied by a fall in sales price per ton.  

Reality Check

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (“EIA”) in its latest release announced a gloomy picture for coal stocks. Per EIA forecasts, coal production will decrease by 143 million short tons (MMst) or 16% in 2016 and a further 3% or 26 MMst in 2017 on a year-over-year basis. The EIA also estimates that export of U.S. coal will decline by 15 MMst or 21% in 2016 and by 2 MMst or 3% in 2017.

Coal usage in the U.S. electric power sector accounts for nearly 90% of total U.S. coal consumption. Per an EIA release, coal usage is expected to decline by 50MMst (7%) in 2016 as a result of mild winter weather and competition from natural gas.

The above projections  from the EIA clearly indicates that the plight of coal miners is far from over and the majority of them will still have to find ways to survive in these turbulent  times.

Can Rhino Resource be an Exception?

We’ve always maintained that a mere reverse unit/ stock split cannot not save a partnership or a company from bankruptcy. Coal miners need to have customers who will purchase their products and services to be able to run profitably.

Rhino Resources’ committed sales volume for 2017 is presently much lower than 2016 committed volumes, which does not present a good picture.

Is There a Way Out?

At present, both domestic demand and the export market are precariously placed for coal miners. The strong dollar is also having a negative impact on export volumes.

Coal players have however not been sitting idle. In order to cope with the challenges, they’ve been cutting operating expenses, selling non-core assets, lowering production volumes, idling mines and also resorting to lay-offs.

CONSOL Energy CNX suspended its dividend payment while Rhino Resources took a similar step to suspend the distribution payment to preserve liquidity and use the fund to lower debt levels.

Bottom Line

Unless the U.S. government intervenes and tries to safeguard the interest of the coal mining firms, we would see more coal miners falling prey to the times.

Having said that, despite all-round efforts to curb its usage, coal is still used to produce nearly 40% of global electricity. Coal’s greatest advantage as compared to other sources of fuel is that it is cheaper and is widely available across the globe.

If only utility operators would come forward to install new coal based power plants keeping in mind evolving emission standards will coal get a fresh lease of life.

Zacks Rank

Rhino Resource Partners currently carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). Sharing the same Zacks rank with Rhino Resource is Cloud Peak Energy CLD. Another favorably ranked stock in the coal space is SunCoke Energy Inc. SXC, sporting a Zacks Rank #1(Strong Buy).

Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report >>

Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report
CONSOL ENERGY (CNX): Free Stock Analysis Report
CLOUD PEAK EGY (CLD): Free Stock Analysis Report
SUNCOKE ENERGY (SXC): Free Stock Analysis Report
RHINO RESOURCES (RHNO): Free Stock Analysis Report
To read this article on click here.
Zacks Investment Research