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Largest US Coal Miner Peabody Finally Files For Bankruptcy Ending Prolonged Speculations

Apr 14, 2016 07:04 AM EDT

Peabody Energy Corp., the largest US coal miner has declared bankruptcy on Wednesday marking end of large publicly traded company. The chapter 11 filing with the federal court in its hometown St. Louis represents as the biggest US corporate bankruptcy by liabilities. The large publicly traded company has fueled American industry for more than a century.

The recent filing appears following similar by Arch Coal Inc., Alpha Natural Resources Inc., Patriot Coal Corp. and Walter Energy Inc. These bankrupt companies have lost a total of $30 billion in stock market value since 2010. Meanwhile, the coal sector has shed 31,000 jobs since 2009, reports The Wall Street Journal quoting Mine Safety and Health Administration.

The coal mining company is seeking to reorganize its US operations reducing an estimated $10.1 billion debt under court intervention. The outcome of the case may turn on prevailing trajectory of coal price over the period of reorganization. During this period, the coal mining giant requires combating with environmental obligations and complicated matters related to the non-bankrupt Australian operations, according to a report published in Bloomberg.

In the court filing, Peabody estimates its assets at $11 billion and liabilities at $10.1 billion as on December 31, 2015. Chapter 11 filing will enable the coal mining company strengthening liquidity and reducing debt. The mining giant expects to lay the foundation for sustainable stability and success, reports Reutersquoting Glenn Kellow, Peabody Chief Executive Officer.

Debtor-in-possession financing for $800 million from both secured and unsecured creditors has also been laid to the court for approval. The financing includes a $500 million term loan, a $200 million bonding accommodation facility for cleanup costs and a letter of credit worth $100 million, informs Peabody in its Chapter 11 filing.

Large coal mining companies are allowed leaving a share of future mine cleanup without collateral through a program called 'self bonding'. The bonding arrangement has drawn federal attraction following financial distress in the coal sector. The largest US coal miner owns a total of $1.1 billion in self bonding across four states, suggest the court documents.

Peabody's financial woes have intensified due to fall in global demand for metallurgical coal, particularly in China. The company has been compelled to write down $700 million in its Australian metallurgical coal assets during last year.

The US shale boom over the past five years has made natural gas competitive with thermal coal while Obama's environmental regulations have raised operational costs. All these factors have led Peabody to seek protection under bankruptcy.

The US shale booming and Obama's tougher environmental laws have showed the coal industry the exit way due to less competitiveness with gas. Coupled with a demand fall, these factors have led many coal mining companies to seek protection under bankruptcy law. Peabody Energy Corp. appears as the latest to enroll its name in the bankrupt list through filing Chapter 11 with the Saint Louis court.

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