Most Australian coal mining companies have been struggling for a couple of years, but New Hope has $1.1 billion in the bank.
The next step could be to go on a buying spree to strengthen its mining portfolio and create mining jobs in the process.
Despite the news of cash in the bank, New Hope has also been hit hard in the pocket with declining profits of $22.7 million. Analysts say this is mostly due to low thermal coal prices for the 3.0 million tonnes sold. The losses are in no way a reflection of the management and operational methods that are employed by the company.
A billion dollars in the bank
A mining company with over a billion dollars in the bank is one that is doing something right when it comes to operating a mine site.
New Hope’s new chief executive Shane Stephan said it was a solid result given the challenging conditions in the coal mining market in Australia, and dismissed current prices as cyclical and would more than likely rise in the future.
In his view, Mr Stephan said he expected spot coal prices to remain low in the second half of 2014 due to an oversupply of coal in countries like China and Japan. However, he was of the opinion that will change, making a particular reference to how South Korea is making plans to generate over 10 gigawatts of electricity from coal-fired power stations.
He also said ongoing low coal prices also meant well-priced coal assets would, inevitably, become available. ($1 billion in the bank puts New Hope in a good position to acquire more coal assets).
Recently, China has made many statements to the media that it wanted to invest in cleaner power-generating technologies and that if this occurred it could lead to a downturn in coal supply.
‘It will take some time for demand to catch up with current supply but there’s still a very good, strong future for thermal coal exports into Asia,’ he said.
‘Japan had similar problems (to China) with air quality in the late 1960s-1970s … They put on proper pollution controls and dramatically improved their air quality whilst increasing coal consumption.’
Mr Stephan’s predecessor, long-term CEO Robert Neale, last year complained that resources giants such as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto needed a reality check about their asking prices for coal mines.
‘Merger and acquisition is all about timing and opportunity,’ he said.
New Hope’s Australian oil and gas assets were helping shield the company from volatile coal prices, with its Bridgeport Energy business churning out the cash via oil production, he said.
The diversified resource company is also the largest shareholder in Australian company Dart Energy, (16.4 per cent), which has a strong focus on shale assets in the UK. This could also prove to be a very profitable business for New Hope as the shale mining business is taking off in America and more and more attention has been given to the potential of this type of mining operation.
At a time when North Sea production is declining, the UK shale mining market could be the next biggest earner for New Hope, creating hundreds of new global jobs in the industry and not just mining jobs Queensland.