Another One Bites The Coal Dust - Alpha Natural Files For Bankruptcy

Amid the collapse in coal prices, not helped by the 'China situation' and President Obama's nudge, WSJ reports that the ailing US coal just got another black eye as Alpha Natural Resources (ANR) is expected to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection early Monday to cut its more than $3 billion debt load. After four straight annual losses, Alpha - one of America's largest coal producers - has secured $692mm in DIP financing as it prepares its restructuring plan expected to sell some of the best mines and shutter others. It appears the Arch Coal's CEO's ominous words last week were prophetic - “Coal markets are as difficult as I’ve seen them during my 30 years in the industry."

From bad to worse...

On top of Australia's mining industry collapse... Now, the US industry's plunge is gathering pace, as The Wall Street Journal reports,

Alpha Natural Resources Inc. is expected to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection early Monday to cut its more than $3 billion debt load, according to people familiar with the matter, as a severe slump in coal prices continues to wreak havoc on the industry.

The Bristol, Va., company, one of the largest U.S. coal producers, hasn’t completed the terms of a restructuring plan but will likely sell some of its best mines or turn them over to creditors and close others during its trip through bankruptcy court, the people said.

Alpha has secured as much as $600 million in bankruptcy financing from senior lenders and secured bondholders to fund its operations during its chapter 11 case, some of the people said.

A steep drop in coal prices has Alpha and its rivals bleeding cash and choking on debt taken on to finance acquisitions around the start of the decade, when the industry’s outlook was rosier. In 2011, Alpha paid $7.1 billion for rival mining company Massey Energy Inc., a deal that extended Alpha’s lead as the largest miner of the type of coal used in steelmaking.

But the price of metallurgical coal has hit an 11-year low amid an economic slowdown in China, the world’s largest producer of steel. Thermal-coal prices have also plummeted as power plants switch to abundant and relatively clean-burning natural gas.

The slump has a number of coal companies at risk. Walter Energy Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection last month with a plan to hand control of the company to senior creditors, after chapter 11 filings by Patriot Coal Corp. and Xinergy Ltd. earlier this year. Arch Coal Inc., meanwhile, is working with bankers and lawyers who specialize in helping struggling companies, The Wall Street Journal has reported, and is facing lender pushback on a proposed debt-for-debt exchange meant to reduce its borrowings and interest costs.

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