Peabody Energy Earnings Call Insights to Analyze Now

On Monday, Peabody Energy Corporation (NYSE:BTU) reported its third quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call. Take a look.

Coal Production Trends

Michael Dudas – Sterne, Agee & Leach Inc.: First off regarding what PRB utility utilization in coal production trends you’ve seen since the bottom in the spring and what you mentioned about the current and 12 months for gas, how should a market balance the potential for PRB mine overproduction which has happened in the past and where current near published pricing is for (8400 and 8800) type coals, which I think when there is much based on economic at the current levels?

Catalysts are critical to discovering winning stocks. Check out our newest CHEAT SHEET stock picks now.

Gregory H. Boyce – Chairman and CEO: Well I guess my own sense is first of all you assume, when you said good luck, you were talking about the Cardinals. But I think that you are going to see that the producers are going to be very respectful of their cost positions as new production or production gets recovered from what’s been taken out of the market over the last 12 months and certainly over the last six months. I mean obviously, there has been a lot of changes people have been deferring capital, not all of the production that was in place is immediately recoverable. You’ll have some over time that you can bring back in, but all of that comes in at a bit higher cost structure than what people currently have. So, I think that there is going to be a good level of caution as people bring production back into the market to meet that growing demand.

Michael Dudas – Sterne, Agee & Leach Inc.: My follow-up is you mentioned in your prepared remarks, Greg, 150 million tonnes or so of Chinese capacity coming offline because from the small inefficient mines. Do you think that’s just a continuation of the government’s plans or has that been accelerated somewhat because of market prices within the country and given where opportunities for – where given benchmark prices are and what the cost curve is in China?

Gregory H. Boyce – Chairman and CEO: Well, I think fundamentally it’s part of the government’s plan to restructure the industry. Obviously, it’s probably helped a bit by current market conditions, but when you look at the cost structure in China as the import market is very competitive certainly in the Southern part of China with their own internal domestic production. So, I think the market is helping them achieve their long-term goals and that is to have larger enterprises, have a lot less smaller, higher cost, less efficient and less safe operations in the sector.

Seaborne Thermal Market

James Rollyson – Raymond James: Greg, you mentioned in the prepared remarks, your comment about the seaborne thermal market maybe growing by another 100 million tons next year, but kind of curious, a, where you see the exports kind of originating from around the globe and, b, what kind of international benchmark pricing do you think you need to get there?

Gregory H. Boyce – Chairman and CEO: I think 100 million tons was actually what our forecast for growth for this in 2012. We see additional growth in ’13 through ’16. Almost all of that growth comes from new generation being built globally between now and 2016 we still see 390 gigawatts of new coal fueled plants being built particularly with a heavy emphasis on China and India and the rest of the Pacific Rim. This year, year-to-date we’ve seen a significant increase early in the year from Indonesia filling that volume as prizes earlier in the year were higher, we saw more exports out of the U.S., Colombia has picked up a bit and in the first half of the year, South Africa was operating fairly well. Of course you roll forward now to where we sit today, as the U.S. exports became higher cost and prices had fallen a bit, they came out of the market. Colombia increases have stabilized. South Africa is starting to have problems across their entire mining spectrum given their unrest and Indonesia over the last four months has been down as they have rationalized their export capacity given where prices are fallen, so I think to a certain degree it encourages us that as we saw that little bit of dip in seaborne pricing, the market responded very quickly which would give us and indication that we were – that would have been the floor if you will on prices going forward and now as economic activity in 2013 hopefully begins to improve we will see both increase in demand and upward pressure on pricing.

James Rollyson – Raymond James: As a follow-up you guys have done a phenomenal job obviously on trying to hold the cost line, talked about the $100 million in additional kind of overhead timing of the (delta), I think you mentioned. Just curious where kind of around the – if you kind of walk around the Peabody platform where you have seen this and maybe how much of that has actually already happened versus how much is yet to show up in the numbers?

Michael C. Crews – EVP and CFO: In response to the current market conditions we have been looking not only at the fourth quarter but also 2013. So it was a concerted and combined approach. When you look at overall cost reductions, really no cost category was safe. We look at personnel, we look at contractors, we look at outside spend, we look at T&E. So, as it relates to that, from a headcount perspective we have got roughly 925 positions that are coming out of the platform, which is a combination of corporate and admin positions, but the largest bulk of that is really going to be related to contractors both at the corporate level but even larger on the operating level. Then we frankly have some open positions that we are going to eliminate going forward. So it’s an effort that starts to benefit in the fourth quarter but we really expect to see the full benefit in 2013 and it is targeted specific and we believe realizable next year.

Gregory H. Boyce – Chairman and CEO: The other thing I would add to that is we are benefitting from a significant number of investments in processes that we have been putting in place and building upon over the last year and a half. Simple things like investment in technology that will allow us to have the best video conferencing capabilities around our platform. So, as we look at how do we reduce as Mike said, travel. When you’re flying globally all the time, it gets pretty expensive in today’s environment, but now that we’ve got the technology in place, we can significantly and have significantly reduce that. So, that’s one sustainable aspect. The other one is in our asset management and our maintenance programs across the group, where historically, you would do major repairs based on hours. While we’ve invested and implemented pretty sophisticated systems to where we look at the actual condition of engines, wheel motors, major gearboxes of conveyor systems and we do the analytics to only do those repairs that are required on a condition basis. So what we are seeing is we’re getting extended hours, we’re getting lower mean time between failures, but we’re getting longer life out of our components, which is significantly reducing our maintenance repair costs. We see a lot of that as sustainable as we go forward. So, those are the kinds of things in addition to as Mike said opening up the coverage and pulling out everything that – you would in good times, you would like to do, but when you get into these kind of markets, you get really tight and you say what’s absolutely necessary, that’s what we’ll do to be safe and get coal to market.

A Closer Look: Peabody Energy Earnings Cheat Sheet>>