Japan’s Coal, Gas Demand Will Rise Following Earthquake, New Hope Says

Japan’s coal and natural gas demand is likely to rise after the nation’s biggest earthquake this month knocked out nuclear-powered generators, said New Hope Corp., an Australian coal producer.

“I would expect increased requirements to burn coal and gas over the next few years,” Robert Neale, chief executive officer of the Ispwich, Queensland-based company, said today in a phone interview. Coking coal, in particular, would be needed “because you’ll have at least five or more years of reconstruction, which is going to require steel,” he said.

Japan, which depends on imported fuel for most of its needs, is seeking alternatives to nuclear power after the March 11 quake forced the shutdown of 11 reactors. Five years may be needed to rebuild after the disaster, the World Bank said.

New Hope fell 0.2 percent to A$4.89 at the 4:10 p.m. close in Sydney trading. Shares in the company have risen 0.8 percent this year, compared with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index’s 2.2 percent fall.

New Hope reported first-half profit of A$407 million ($409 million), a rise of more than fourfold following the sale of the company’s stake in Arrow Energy Ltd. The company has a cash balance of about A$1.6 billion following the A$238 million acquisition of Northern Energy Ltd., Neale said.

Demand for coal will rise to make up for the lost nuclear capacity because it’s cheaper than oil and gas, and also due to negative public sentiment toward nuclear power, Andrew Harrington, an analyst Patersons Securities Ltd., said in a report. “We believe that the negativity surrounding nuclear energy will see increased demand for fossil fuels including and especially coal.”

Coal producers likely to benefit from increased demand include Gloucester Coal Ltd. (GCL), New Hope, Whitehaven Coal Ltd. as well as developers Aston Resources Ltd. (AZT), Cockatoo Coal Ltd. (COK) and Riversdale Mining Ltd. (RIV), said Harrington.

To contact the reporter on this story: Elisabeth Behrmann in Sydney at ebehrmann1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Hobbs at ahobbs4@bloomberg.net

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