Arch Coal Loss Wider Than Expected as Sales Volumes Fall

Arch Coal Inc., the country’s fourth-largest producer of the fuel, reported quarterly revenue and a loss that were worse than expected after sales volumes declined 15 percent on weaker demand.

The fourth-quarter net loss was $295.4 million, or $1.39 a share, compared with net income of $70.9 million, or 33 cents, a year earlier, St. Louis-based Arch said in a statement today. Excluding an asset writedown and other items, the loss was 42 cents a share, missing the 14-cent average of 23 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Revenue fell to $968.2 million from $1.23 billion a year earlier, missing the $1.01 billion average of 15 estimates. Arch fell 13 percent to $6.04 at the close in New York, the biggest decline since August 2011.

Arch sells thermal coal used to generate electricity and metallurgical coal, a steelmaking raw material. Domestic thermal coal demand tumbled last year amid mild weather and as prices for natural gas, a competing fuel, dropped to the lowest in a decade. Arch, which has now reported four straight quarterly adjusted losses, said today its coal sales will be 133 million to 144 million tons of coal in 2013. Volumes dropped to 141 million tons from 155 million tons.

Peabody Energy Corp. is the country’s largest coal producer by sales, followed by Alpha Natural Resources Inc. and Consol Energy Inc.

(Updates share price in third paragraph.)
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