The World Bank has made a public shift to stop funding coal fired electric plant construction abroad. Large global lenders like the European Investment Bank have followed suit. However, that shouldn’t stop China and India from continuing to build coal plants.
In its second quarter earnings report, Peabody Energy Corporation (NYSE:BTU) notes that China’s coal imports rose 13% while India’s imports increased by 9% in the first half. Longer term, China is expected to bring online another 250 gigawatts of coal fired electric power by 2017 while India should power up 70 gigawatts’ worth.
Although reduced support from large global lenders will hinder coal fired power plant growth in smaller countries, neither China nor India fall into that category. The near-term growth in demand from these two nations, then, isn’t going to be affected. And since these two nations underpin the long-term demand picture, too, coal is likely to remain an important and growing part of the world’s power picture for years to come.
The “local” player
Peabody Energy Corporation (NYSE:BTU) is one of the best positioned companies to serve Asia because it has operations in the U.S. and Australia. Australia, which represents just under half of the company’s business, will benefit from its close proximity to both Asian giants. As those two countries increase imports to meet growing coal needs, Peabody Energy Corporation (NYSE:BTU)’s Australian operations should see increased sales. And, as pricing improves, volume and price will work together to create a double benefit.
In addition, Peabody Energy Corporation (NYSE:BTU) is a big player in the Powder River Basin domestically. This coal area has extremely low-cost coal that is increasingly being sent overseas to, you guessed it, Asia. So, the company should benefit from increased Asian demand on both sides of its business.
This year is going to be a tough one for Peabody Energy Corporation (NYSE:BTU). The company is projecting anywhere from a loss of $0.16 a share to a profit of $0.09 a share in the third quarter. Unless coal prices move higher, the fourth quarter is likely to be about the same. However, with direct and indirect access to the core coal demand markets, Peabody Energy Corporation (NYSE:BTU) is a relatively low-risk option for investors seeking a turnaround play.
Powder River focus
For those with a more aggressive bent, there is Cloud Peak Energy Inc. (NYSE:CLD). The company is tightly focused on the Powder River Basin, so its results will rise and fall as demand and prices for PRB coal increase and decrease. That’s why this stock is riskier than far more diversified Peabody.
However, Cloud Peak Energy Inc. (NYSE:CLD) is working to increase sales to Asia. For example, in 2008 the company sent less than 1% of its coal to the region, but in 2013 it’s projecting that number to hit 5.5%. This shift has already helped to offset falling U.S. coal shipments and sets the company up to serve a growing coal market.