Coal revival means big stock bonuses at bankrupt Peabody

Tue Feb 28, 2017 5:20am EST
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By Tracy Rucinski and Tom Hals

CHICAGO/WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) - A year ago, Peabody Energy Corp's BTUUQ.PK chief executive was presiding over $2 billion of losses as the world's largest private sector coal miner spiraled into bankruptcy.

Now, CEO Glenn Kellow and other top executives stand to reap tens of millions of dollars in stock bonuses under Peabody's bankruptcy exit plan, which sets aside 10 percent of newly minted shares for employees.

The executives would collect a big portion of that stock when the company exits bankruptcy, expected in April. The shares would be worth about $15 million for Kellow and between $3 million and $5 million for each of five other executives, according to a company estimate.

But some shareholders and creditors who are challenging Peabody in bankruptcy court say the executives could reap a much bigger windfall. That's because Peabody's estimate severely undervalues the stock, they argue.

The company's valuation, they contend, fails to properly reflect the impact of President Donald Trump's unexpected election victory and regulatory changes in Beijing that have stoked demand for coal in China.

The critics include hold-out creditors who complain they are getting shorted by a deal hammered out by Peabody executives and hedge funds that hold the bulk of the company's debt, which totals about $8 billion. The funds - led by Elliott Management, Discovery Capital Management and Aurelius Capital Management - would benefit from a lower valuation because it would give them more shares of the newly created Peabody stock, which will be used to pay off their bonds.

"You'd think this was one of the hottest IPOs in the world," said Fredrick Palmer, who retired from Peabody in 2014 as a senior vice president and will be left with Peabody's old and essentially worthless stock.

Some shareholders and creditors are expected to oppose Peabody's Chapter 11 exit plan when the company seeks approval from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in St. Louis in March.   Continued...

FILE PHOTO - The ticker and stock information for Peabody Energy is displayed at the post where the stock is traded on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S. on March 16, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo