Surging coal prices is a boom for some investors

February 14, 2023

The price of thermal coal has more than tripled in less than two years as the global energy crisis and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has spurred high demand for coal. Some hedge funds that bet on the reliability of coal have been rewarded.

According to a report from the Financial Times, hedge funds including Third Point, Makuria Investment Management and Odey Asset Management have reaped windfall profits thanks to the spike in prices and the profits made by miners. It has also added to the debate among investors about how they should view coal.

There has been many reports of large investors dropping investments in coal and other fossil fuels in favor of environmental, social and governance (ESG) policy while other investors say the shift to clean energy will take decades and have stuck with coal.

“The transition to green energy will not happen overnight,” Petra Dismorr, chief executive of consultancy NorthPeak Advisory told the Financial Times. “This has raised a divide for many allocators in assessing which stocks they can or cannot buy, she added.”

Daniel Loeb’s Third Point and Odey Asset Management are among a number of funds that chose London-listed Glencore, the world’s most profitable coal company, as a way of benefiting from demand for the fuel. Glencore shares are up more than 40 percent since the start of last year and trading near a record high.

Glencore is just one of a number of companies that have seen an uptick in profits. Profits at the world’s 20 biggest coal miners tripled last year to more than $97 billion, with Glencore earning $13.2 billion in the 12 months to June 2022, and China Shenhua making $12.2 billion. Among the shares that have outperformed since the start of last year are Whitehaven Coal, up about 200 percent, and Peabody Energy, which has surged more than 150 percent.

Coal is still used to produce more than one-third of the world’s electricity, and is the primary source of power in fast-growing economies such as India, China and Indonesia.

In Europe, which aims to cut emissions by 55 percent by 2030, coal has made a comeback because of the squeeze on Russian gas supply. Germany, for instance, whose coalition government includes the Green party, has extended the life of its coal-fired power stations to avoid a potential energy crisis. In December the UK gave the go-ahead to the first new coal mine in 30 years and in October, RWE announced plans to expand to the Garzweiler coal mine in Germany.

In December, The International Energy Agency (IEA) released its Coal 2022 report in which it found that global coal consumption is likely to hit an all-time mark of 8 Gt (8.8 billion st) consumed in a single year.

The IEA report, which forecasts the world’s coal consumption, said coal use is set to rise by 1.2 percent and pass the previous record that was set in 2013. It forecast that consumption levels will remain relatively flat through 2025 as declines in mature markets are offset by continued robust demand in emerging Asian economies. This means coal will likely remain in the global energy mix for years to come.



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