Alpha Loss Smaller Than Estimated as Coal Prices Gain

(Corrects headline to say loss instead of profit.)

Alpha Natural Resources Inc. (ANR), the second-biggest U.S. coal producer, posted a smaller-than- estimated first-quarter loss after an increase in the price of the commodity mined in the Western U.S. and sold to power utilities.

The net loss widened to $110.8 million, or 50 cents per share, from $28.8 million, or 13 cents, a year earlier, the Bristol, Virginia-based company said in a statement today. The loss excluding restructuring costs and other one-time items was 47 cents, smaller than the 57-cent average of 23 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Sales fell to $1.33 billion from $1.93 billion, exceeding the $1.32 billion average of 14 estimates.

The price of thermal coal extracted in the Powder River Basin -- an area than straddles states including Wyoming, where Alpha operates two mines -- averaged $9.74 a ton in the first quarter, 6.9 percent higher than a year earlier. U.S. demand for coal used to generate electricity has recovered as the price of natural gas, a competing fuel, has risen from a decade low reached a year ago.

Alpha has cut about half of its production in the central Appalachian region since it purchased Massey Energy Co. in 2011.

Alpha rose 0.7 percent to $7.47 in New York yesterday. The shares have tumbled 52 percent in the past 12 months.

Peabody Energy Corp. is the biggest U.S. coal producer by revenue.

(Alpha has scheduled a conference call at 10 a.m. New York time. Dial +1-877-407-8029.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Sonja Elmquist in New York at selmquist1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Casey at scasey4@bloomberg.net

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