Lenders accept Peabody's restructuring plan
Peabody Energy Corps.’ chapter 11 restructuring plan was accepted by top lenders.
The lenders backing the $800 million bankruptcy financing package accepted its five-year business plan, disclosed in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. It is a key milestone in the company’s plan to exit bankruptcy.
Dow Jones News Wire reported that Peabody Energy hopes to submit its chapter 11 plan of reorganization to the bankruptcy court by the end of the year.
Peabody’s reorganization plan, which is subject to a creditor vote and court approval, would be built around the business outlook and would also describe how Peabody would reduce its debt load and exit bankruptcy.
Peabody sought chapter 11 protection on April 13 to restructure a debt load that, as of the end of last year, topped $10 billion.
Peabody is one of dozens of coal producers that has filed for bankruptcy protection as a storm of low natural gas prices, sluggish demand from China and increased legislation has battered the coal market. Peabody said near-term U.S. coal prices are “expected to remain subdued.” The company’s business plan indicates it expects that the U.S. coal industry will “modestly” rebound next year as natural gas prices rise. It also forecasts growing demand from U.S. utilities for coal over the next five years.
Peabody operates 26 mines in the U.S. and Australia that produce the thermal coal favored by electricity generators and the metallurgical coal used by iron and steelmakers. The company plans to increase production at its core U.S. coal mines in the Illinois Basin and the Powder River Basin in Wyoming so that those mines will supply more than half—55 percent—of U.S. coal by 2021.
As for Peabody’s Australian operations, which aren’t under U.S. court protection, the company plans to downsize by divesting, selling or suspending production at “nonstrategic” mines. Such efforts are expected to boost cash levels for those mines, but Peabody said “multiple mines” in Australia will require new capital infusions, mostly after 2017.
The business plan is closely linked to the ability of top Peabody executives to earn bonuses in the next two years. Six executives, including President and Chief Executive Glenn Kellow, could share millions of dollars in incentives depending on when Peabody emerges from bankruptcy, the financial performance of its U.S. and Australian divisions, cash flow targets and the extent of the work the company does to reclaim the land it mines.
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court in St. Louis was scheduled to review the bonus proposal The business plan itself isn’t subject to court approval.