Yancoal Fpo (ASX:YAL)
Historical Stock Chart
1 Year : From May 2012 to May 2013
-- Yancoal Australia Reviews Expansion Plans For All Mines
-- Move comes as coal miners face falling prices, rising mining costs
-- Yancoal owns five mines in New South Wales, two in Queensland
-- Yancoal's 1H net profit totaled A$415.7 million, up from A$250.8 million a year ago.
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By Ross Kelly and David Winning
SYDNEY--China-backed Yancoal Australia Ltd. (YAL.AU) said Monday it is reviewing expansion plans at all seven of its mines, as weaker demand from major north Asian importers continues to weigh on coal prices.
Yancoal's approach underscores growing caution among coal producers being squeezed by falling prices and rising mining costs. A supply glut of steel has weakened Asian demand for coking coal used in blast furnaces, while a slowdown in China's economy has resulted in lower demand for coal-fired power.
Rio Tinto PLC (RIO) this month said it would close the Blair Athol thermal coal mine in Queensland state by the end of this year and defer a decision on another multibillion dollar development. It comes just months after BHP Billiton Ltd.'s (BHP) shut its loss-making Norwich Park coking coal mine in the state.
Growing caution among producers also raises questions about whether billionaire Nathan Tinkler's offer for Australia's Whitehaven Coal Ltd. (WHC.AU) will proceed at the currently indicated A$5.4 billion price, particularly given tight debt markets.
China is the world's largest coal importer by volume after overtaking Japan last year. It shipped in more than 112 million tons of the fuel in the January-June period, primarily from Indonesia and Australia, up 61% on year.
But recent data, including the slowest rate of growth in industrial production since 2009, has spooked the market despite Beijing's pledges to stimulate the economy through subsidies for manufacturing, including automotives and energy efficient home appliances.
Last week, Commonwealth Bank of Australia cut its expectations for all types of coking coal prices by between 2% and 8% next year on risks "China is likely to experience a deeper and more protracted economic turning point" than previously thought.
Yancoal's outlook is significant because it is majority owned by Hong Kong-listed Yanzhou Coal Mining Co. (YZC), which is China's third-biggest coal producer by volume. Yanzhou Coal has been investing heavily in Australian coal mines to offset stagnant production at its main base of Shandong in eastern China.
Yancoal, which was formed through Yanzhou Coal's recent takeover of Gloucester Coal and listed on the Australian Securities Exchange in June, owns five mines in New South Wales state and two mines in neighboring Queensland.
"Expansion plans across all mines will be reviewed and ranked to ensure that the appropriate capital expenditure discipline is maintained," Yanzhou Australia said in a slideshow presentation.
Late Friday, Yancoal said net profit for the six months to June 30 jumped to 415.7 million Australian dollars (US$433.2 million) from A$250.8 million a year earlier.
It was downbeat in its outlook, saying the next few months will be "difficult" and it would consider all options to cut operating costs.
The company said Monday it expects prices for metallurgical coal to remain weak and volatile in the six months to Dec. 31. As for thermal coal, it said production cutbacks in a number of countries have provided some price stability.
"As excess stocks are consumed and production cuts take effect the thermal coal price should respond positively in the next year," Yancoal said.
Write to Ross Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org and David Winning at email@example.com
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