Higher FOB Newcastle coal price positive for US exports: Cloud Peak CEO


Cloud Peak Energy is looking at the rising price of FOB Newcastle thermal coal as a positive trend that may signal a reopening of export opportunities.

The Gillette, Wyoming-based coal producer had been active in the export market until low prices forced the company to curtail shipments during the second quarter.

In the company’s earnings call Thursday, President and CEO Colin Marshall said current pricing is still prohibitive but the underlying fundamentals are improving.

“While international thermal coal markets continued to be oversupplied, they are showing signs of coming into balance,” Marshall said.

He highlighted increasing Chinese imports as a result of declining domestic production, more coal-fired generation in India and new coal-fired plants being built in South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam.

“While we do not target supply in China and India directly, we will be watching them closely as they drive international demand,” Marshall said. “On the supply side we have seen Indonesian exports reduce significantly while US exports have dropped and Australian exports have stabilized.

“Overall seaborne thermal supply and demand continues to move into balance and prices are rising to reflect this,” Marshall said. “We are optimistic this trend will continue and we will look to resume exports … when they are once again economic.”

Marshall said export opportunities for Cloud Peak begin to come back into the money when the FOB Newcastle climbs into a range of $75-$80/mt.

Prices for FOB Newcastle 6,300 kcal/kg GAR thermal coal, loading 7-45 days, have not been assessed higher than $75/mt since March 5, 2014. In the months that followed, the price fell to a low of $46.60/mt on April 28 of this year, a drop of 38%.

Since then, prices have climbed dramatically. On Friday, S&P Global Platts assessed FOB Newcastle 6,300 at $65.05/mt, an increase of 40% from the low set three months ago.

Production cuts in China and fewer Indonesian exports have helped drive Newcastle thermal coal prices to levels not seen since January 2015.

“Obviously it looks a lot better when prices are approaching $65[/mt] than when they were approaching $40[/mt],” Marshall said.

Cloud Peak primarily ships from Westshore Terminals in Vancouver, British Columbia. The company has a 49% stake in the proposed Gateway Pacific export terminal near Bellingham, Washington, but the project has been halted by the US Army Corps of Engineers’ recent decision to decline a necessary permit.

Marshall said the company is “not spending any more money on this project” until it and terminal partner SSA Marine “evaluate our options.”

Source: Platts 

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