UBS sees no imminent bankruptcy risk in coals but likely down the road

|By:, SA News Editor

UBS analyst Kuni Chen thinks it makes more sense to start thinking about bankruptcy in the coal sector two or three years down the road rather than buy-the-dip opportunities, noting that the bonds of Walter Energy (WLT), Alpha Natural Resources (ANR) and Arch Coal (ACI) are edging close to distressed levels.

Some tranches of WLT debt are trading at $0.60 on the dollar, while ANR and ACI paper trade a bit better at 70-80 for unsecured debt with yields approaching the mid-teen percentages; the equities continue to be weak, with WLT down almost 70% in the last 12 months and ANR down 40%.

Chen also thinks it makes sense for Peabody Energy (BTU) to sell more stock to pay down its $6B debt load, since it would provide added flexibility to weather the downturn in the seaborne coal markets should prices stay at depressed levels for a longer than expected period of time.