December 3, 2014 / 12:37 PM / in 3 years

UPDATE 2-Cliffs Natural expects loss of $375 mln-$425 mln on asset sale

(Adds analyst comment, updates shares)

Dec 3 (Reuters) - Cliffs Natural Resources Inc said it expects to record a pretax loss of $375 million to $425 million on the sale of its Logan County coal assets in West Virginia in the fourth quarter.

The miner’s shares rose as much as 6 percent in early trading after the company said it will continue to explore sale options for other coal assets amid lower prices.

“With remaining assets still on the table, we expect additional transactions to take place going forward, which should provide additional cash inflows over the coming quarters,” FBR Capital Markets & Co analyst Mitesh Thakkar said.

In July, Cliffs lost a proxy battle to hedge fund Casablanca Capital, which urged the company to spin off its international operations, form a master limited partnership from its U.S. assets and sell non-core assets.

Cliffs said in November that it was looking to exit its Canadian iron ore operations and that the company may seek creditor protection to shield itself from closure costs and liabilities costs at its Canadian operations.

The company said on Wednesday it will sell the Logan County assets to Coronado Coal II LLC for $175 million in cash along with the assumption of certain liabilities.

Brean Capital LLC analyst Lucas Pipes said the deal was “incrementally positive.” Cliffs has said its coal business would be EBITDA breakeven in this environment and the assets sold include lower quality coal, he wrote in a note to clients.

The brokerage also raised its price target by $1 to $5.

Coal prices have halved over the last three years, while iron ore prices have declined more than 40 percent this year alone due to excess supplies and lower steel demand in China.

Deutsche Bank Securities acted as financial adviser and Hahn Loeser & Parks LLP acted as legal adviser to Cliffs Natural on the sale of its West Virginia assets.

Cliffs shares were up 3.5 percent at 8.45 on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday. Up to Tuesday’s close, the stock had lost 69 percent this year. (Reporting by Sneha Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Don Sebastian)

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