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DAILY NEWS Jan 3, 2013 3:12 PM - 0 comments

Consol Energy sells coal assets in Canada

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Consol Energy (CNX-N) sold two non-producing coal assets in Western Canada last month for US$127 million, bringing its total asset sales in 2012 to more than US$350 million, the company reported today.

The Pittsburgh-based fuel producer with 12 bituminous coal mining complexes in the United States and gas reserves of 3.5 trillion cubic feet, said none of the assets it sold generated revenue last year and that it expects to sell more non-core assets in 2013 as part of a strategy of “pulling value forward” and focusing on its “near-term opportunity set,” according to J. Brett Harvey, Consol’s chairman and chief executive.

In July Consol sold its non-producing Northern Powder River Basin assets for US$170 million in cash to Cloud Peak Energy (CLD-N). It structured that transaction so it would retain an 8% production royalty interest on about 200 million tons of permitted fee coal.

Like many other companies grappling with the ongoing global economic slowdown, Consol has had to scale back production to meet a weaker market and divest non-core assets. In the third quarter ended Sept. 30 it posted  a net loss of US$11 million or US$0.05 per diluted share compared to net income of US$167 million or US$0.73 per share in the year-earlier quarter.

The lower level of production impaired costs per ton. In the coal division across all of its tons, Consol reported fully-loaded costs of US$55.84 per ton in the third quarter, an increase of US$1.46 per ton from the year-earlier quarter. The company said it expects costs per ton to decrease as its mines return to more normal schedules. It also said it doesn’t expect to invest in new expansion projects until coal markets improve.

The sales of its assets in Western Canada in the closing days of 2012 were completed in two separate transactions. In the first, Consol sold its Ram River and Scurry Ram metallurgical coal properties in Alberta for US$105 million to Ram River Coal, a private company created by private merchant bank Forbes & Manhattan to acquire the assets. The Ram River property has an in-situ coal resource of about 380 million tons and estimated washed coal product of about 75 million tons. Under the terms of the deal with Forbes & Manhattan, Consol has retained the right to receive up to US$20 million of the second or third payments in the common shares of Ram River Coal.

In the second transaction,Consol agreed to sell its stake in the Grassy Mountain mine and a number of other Alberta coal properties to Riverdale Resources of Australia for US$24 million. Consol’s share of the recoverable reserves at Grassy Mountain are estimated to be in the 30 million ton range.  

News of the Canadian asset sales sent Consol shares up US$1.18 or 3.8% to US$32.18 per share in mid-afternoon trading. Over the last year Consol shares have traded in a range of US$26.41 to US$39.34.

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