UPDATE 1-Walter Energy says results to improve from 4th quarter
* 1st-quarter 2013 sales to rise 9 percent from Q4 2012
* Coal miner squaring off with hedge fund Audley Capital
* Audley nominee cleared of insider trading allegations (Recasts with financial outlook)
April 11 (Reuters) - Coal miner Walter Energy Inc, which is locked in a proxy fight with an activist hedge fund, said on Thursday that its first-quarter performance had improved from that of the fourth quarter of 2012.
Walter said it expects to report metallurgical coal sales of 2.8 million tonnes for the first quarter, up 9 percent from the fourth quarter of 2012, and above the 2.4 million tonnes it reported for the first quarter of 2012.
The company said it also expects a slight improvement in realized metallurgical coal prices from the fourth quarter, when they were 39 percent lower than a year earlier.
It forecast a more than $10 per tonne decrease in the metallurgical coal cash cost of sales from the fourth quarter of 2012.
British hedge fund Audley Capital Advisors LLP is aiming to replace half of Walter's board at its April 25 annual meeting.
Audley has criticized the company for churning through chief executives and taking on too much debt at punishing interest rates. Walter has called the fund's campaign a "hit and run" designed to turn a quick profit. Continued...