Arch Coal Earnings Call Nuggets: Pricing and Maintaining CapEx

On Friday, Arch Coal Inc (NYSE:ACI) reported its third quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call. Take a look.

2013 Pricing and Mine Idling:

Mitesh Thakkar – FBR: Congratulations on the quarter and excellent cost control. My first question is just on the PRB markets in general. Obviously, you did a good job on the PRB side this quarter and also priced some coal for 2013. If my math is correct at around $12 and 10 million tons. When you look in the strip you priced at probably at the higher end. Can you give us some color around it and how should we think about this delta?

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John W. Eaves – President and CEO: Yeah, your math is correct. It was about 9.5 million tons and a little over $12 and the marketing team did a great job and being very selective and we were pleased with the opportunities that we’ve seen during the quarter. We’ve seen a little bit more cautious outlook for 2013 as we kind of moved out of the quarter. We continue to be encouraged by the natural gas price levels that we’re seeing and feel like that PRB coal in particular would do well against natural gas pricing at this level. The concern at least in near-term would be the inventories I think given the drawdown that we saw this summer, typically you have 20 million ton draw from May to August. We saw closer to 25 million ton draw. We’ve been in the shoulder season here for a few where if we get a normalized winner, we think we could see those inventories come down pretty quickly and we think PRB would be the first to respond. We’re assuming right now inventories by the end of the year in that 180 million ton level, and assuming again normal winter weather, we would expect to see the PRB market improvement.

Mitesh Thakkar – FBR: Just on the met side, when you look at various mine idling, how should we think about your total met coal productive capacity and if you can give some color around the mix that will be great?

John W. Eaves – President and CEO: Well I mean we guided to the midpoint of 7.5 million this year. We feel good about that guidance. As Paul indicated, we’ve got 200,000 tons. We’ve got a price for the balance of the year. We feel good about that. Most of that would be the high-vol B. We’re seeing the low-80s type price for that product right now. We’re really in the budgeting and planning stage right now for 2013. I wouldn’t want to indicate a volume write-down until we get through that process. We would plan to update you on our January call. Our marketing guys are currently in discussions with our domestic customers and really wouldn’t want to say much more about that at this time.

Mitesh Thakkar – FBR: But is it fair to assume that the 1 million ton capacity which you said idled is something which is not going to be considered next year or it’s too preliminary?

John W. Eaves – President and CEO: Well I think it goes into our planning process. I we closed three coal mines. We closed the Bismarck, the Carlos and the Imperial. That was higher cost, lower quality met coal that we took out of the mix. As we sit here right today, I wouldn’t see that production coming back, but we do have that flexibility again. We’ll update you on that in late January.

Maintaining CapEx:

Shneur Gershuni – UBS: First question, I was just wondering if we can talk about CapEx as we think about 2013 and 2014 I was wondering if you can sort of and I realized you may not be completely prepared to discuss in detail, but I was wondering if you can remind us what the CapEx that’s left for Leer and then kind of where you believe your maintenance CapEx would be kind of on a normalized run rate?

Paul A. Lang – EVP and COO: There I think in 2013 just kind of broad buckets right now. We are looking at about $100 million for Leer next year, about $60 million for the LBA payment and the balance in maintenance CapEx.

Shneur Gershuni – UBS: What’s your current run rate for maintenance CapEx as for this year?

Paul A. Lang – EVP and COO: I guess it’s about 170 to 180.

Shneur Gershuni – UBS: Second question is more financial-oriented. If I remember correctly, the covenants associated with your facility really don’t apply unless you actually draw on the facility. In the unforeseen circumstance that you would need to draw, would this legal settlement actually count in the EBITDA as part of the back-test against it?

John T. Drexler – SVP and CFO: Shneur, this is John Drexler. The legal settlement the EBITDA generated from that is included in our calculation determination for the minimum EBITDA requirement, which is what I think you are referring to. As we sit here today with the cost control that we’ve had in place and the performance during the third quarter, we’ve seen our liquidity grow. We are currently very comfortable with that. As you indicated, we have no drawing on our revolver, $650 million plus in cash, so we feel good about the liquidity and ability to support the Company’s ongoing operations. We’ll carefully look at where market continues to evolve, but we’re comfortable with where we sit today.

Shneur Gershuni – UBS: But the covenants don’t even apply if you’re now drawn, correct?

John T. Drexler – SVP and CFO: If you’re not drawn on the revolver, the financial maintenance covenants only apply to the revolver. If we’re not drawn on the revolver, then there is no application.

Shneur Gershuni – UBS: Just one last question, Paul mentioned some maintenance CapEx in Q4 and so forth, but you have achieved serious cost improvements in 2Q. You got some volume back helped you on fixed operating leverage in Q3 here. As we think about next year, do you expect that you’ll be able to maintain some of the benefits that you’ve achieved over the last two quarters?

Paul A. Lang – EVP and COO: Shneur, it’s Paul. I think we had the same basic question last quarter. I think, I responded and I felt pretty comfortable about what the guys have achieved on the team. The two unknowns out there are diesel and explosive and beyond that we feel very good with what we’ve achieved.

A Closer Look: Arch Coal Earnings Cheat Sheet>>