(Recasts with conference call)
By Nicole Mordant
VANCOUVER, Oct 29 (Reuters) - The steel-making coal market, where prices have plunged to seven-year lows due to oversupply, could be back in balance by the middle of next year if producers continue to cut back output, the chief of Teck Resources Ltd said on Wednesday.
A further 10 million to 15 million tonnes of cutbacks are needed to reduce a supply overhang, Teck’s chief executive Don Lindsay said. Teck estimates that producers have already announced cutbacks of around 25 million tonnes this year.
Vancouver-based Teck, the world’s second-largest exporter of seaborne steel-making, estimates that about one third of this type of coal is being produced at a loss. All Teck`s coal operations were profitable in the third quarter, the company said.
“Given how much production is currently at negative margin, we think there is a good likelihood that this (cutbacks) will happen,” Lindsay said on a conference call to discuss Teck’s quarterly earnings, which beat market expectations.
“There is potential for the coal market to be in balance as early as mid-2015 if further cuts are announced and implemented,” he said.
Teck estimates that of the 25 million tonnes of announced cutbacks only about 7 million to 8 million tonnes have been implemented so far.
Prices for steelmaking coal are at their lowest levels since 2007, below $120 a tonne, hurt by oversupply and lower demand from chief buyer China.
While producers in Canada and the United States have been shuttering production, some producers in Australia, notably BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi Corp, have continued to expand production.
Teck’s stock rose 3 percent to C$18.39 on the Toronto Stock Exchange after the company reported adjusted third-quarter earnings of 28 Canadian cents per share, ahead of analysts’ expectations for 26 Canadian cents.
Earnings of C$84 million ($75.46 million) were 68.5 percent down on the same period a year ago due to lower prices for steelmaking coal and a fall in copper production.
The company, which is also one of the world’s biggest producers of zinc, raised its full-year production forecast for the metal for the second time this year due to a strong performance at its Red Dog mine in Alaska and growing demand from the auto industry in the United States and China.
Teck said it now expects to produce 615,000-630,000 tonnes of zinc in 2014, up from its previous forecast of 600,000-615,000 tonnes issued in July.
The company has reached agreement with customers to sell 6.3 million tonnes of coal in the fourth quarter at $119 per tonne for the highest quality product. Including spot market sales, Teck expects total fourth-quarter sales to be at or above 6.5 million tonnes.
1 US dollar = 1.1132 Canadian dollar With additional reporting by Sneha Banerjee and Anannya Pramanick in Bangalore; editing by Gunna Dickson