UPDATE 2-Walter Energy says coal prices firming, shares rise

Wed Oct 30, 2013 12:28pm EDT
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Oct 30 (Reuters) - Coal miner Walter Energy Inc said prices on steel-making coal are improving and will continue to firm next year due to strong demand in Asia, sending its shares up 3.3 percent despite a larger-than-expected quarterly loss.

The news cheered Walter investors, who have endured a 55 percent drop in the stock this year as weak demand for steel has hit prices of metallurgical coal.

"It appears that the market for their product, which is met coal, is seeing some signs of positive life," Sterne Agee analyst Mike Dudas said, adding that the company had done a good job of controlling costs.

Walter rival Arch Coal Inc on Tuesday cut its production outlook for steel-making coal for the second time this year due to weak prices.

However, Walter Energy Chief Executive Walt Scheller said prices were showing sustainable improvement.

"It's good to see the market moving in a positive direction," he told analysts on a conference call. "And met coal prices should further improve in 2014 assuming continued strong demand in Asia."

Walter Energy reported a net loss of $100.7 million, or $1.61 per share, for the third quarter ended Sept. 30. ()

The company's net loss was $1.1 billion, or $16.97 per share, in the year-ago quarter as it took a $1.1 billion impairment charge related to its acquisition of Western Coal.   Continued...