The King of Coal Strikes It Rich

Whether it's happened to you or you've seen it in the movies, you know that resetting a dislocated shoulder requires an abrupt and painful yank.

Many equities are dislocated right now, and it's a brave Fool who can see through the fear to focus on earnings, guidance, and outlooks. For those who do, I believe select equities may receive an abrupt yank into recovery from proven performance.

None other than the king of coal, Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU  ) , delivered the goods in an enormous way this week. Third-quarter earnings crushed analyst estimates by 59%, good enough to beat the prior year's result by a resounding 1,078%. Company records were shattered, including a 190% rise in EBITDA to more than $600 million and a very healthy EBITDA margin of 32%.

Now, I ask you: Fundamentally speaking, does that sound like a performance deserving of the 68% share-price plunge since late June?

If you're thinking demand for all commodities will be severely weakened by a protracted global downturn … not so fast. Not all commodities are created equal. Consider these comments from Peabody President Richard Navarre: "Supply challenges around the world and lack of capital to respond to market shortages will continue to drive a tight global supply-demand balance for coal. In addition, we believe that the long-term coal demand profile is very strong and will continue to be led by emerging economies."

I agree, and I view the company's recent agreement to build a huge coal project in northern China as a major strategic achievement. Exhibiting similar resolve, Cleveland Natural Resources (NYSE: CLF  ) is not backing away from its pending acquisition of Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR  ) .

Citing safety and permitting issues affecting Appalachian miners such as Massey Energy (NYSE: MEE  ) and spin-off Patriot Coal (NYSE: PCX  ) , Peabody is content to be selling coal from the Powder River Basin of the U.S. at nearly two times the spot prices recorded in early 2007.

While Australian coal miners have struggled with railway and port bottlenecks, Peabody has increased Australian exports by 15% this year, compared with just 3% for Australia overall. While fellow exporters BHP Billiton (NYSE: BHP  ) and Rio Tinto (NYSE: RTP  ) grapple over a potential acquisition, Peabody appears content to acquire additional Australian market share on the strength of its favorable network of rail lines and ports.

For all these reasons, I believe that Peabody deserves a yank and could indeed help heal a dislocated portfolio.

Further Foolishness:

The "Coal" tag within the Motley Fool CAPS community lists 22 coal companies. Find out what other investors are saying about the stocks you're watching, or share your Foolish thoughts with us. CAPS is free and fun!

Fool contributor Christopher Barker captains yachts and writes about stocks. He can also be found blogging actively and acting Foolishly within the CAPS community under the username TMFSinchiruna. He owns shares of BHP Billiton, Cleveland Natural Resources, Massey Energy, and Cliffs Natural Resources. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2008, at 12:10 PM, brice7698007 wrote:

    not to put too fine a point on it, but having re-located close to 100 shoulders on both sides of the body in a variety of ways, i can tell you that the soundest method involves an almost imperceptibly slow movement.

    a quick yank is more likely to cause worsened ligamentous injury to the joint capsule, and maybe break some bones in the already dislocated joint.

    maybe am making too much of a small thing, but unsound medical advice, and poor analogy.

    the latter 2/3 of the article does make some good points, however.

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2008, at 4:57 PM, XMFSinchiruna wrote:

    Good thing I'm a writer, and not a doctor. Thanks for the correction! Luckily, the stock analysis is not contingent on the buoyancy of the analogy. :)

    Sadly, I'm first-aid certified... so you'd think I should have known that. :) I'll study up.

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