The Coal Trader

Coal News Coal Markets Whitehaven logo

Whitehaven Coal Holds Steady in December Quarter, Eyes Met Coal Boom with Blackwater Deal

Whitehaven Coal, the Australian coal producer, saw a modest production increase in the December quarter, marking a period of consolidation before a major shift in its portfolio with the acquisition of Queensland’s Blackwater and Daunia met coal mines.

Production Holds Ground:

  • Saleable production for October-December reached 4.16 million tonnes (mt), up 3% year-on-year.
  • This brought full-year saleable production to 8.55 mt, also a 3% increase.
  • Maules Creek and Gunnedah open cut mines performed well, while Narrabri faced challenges due to geological and equipment issues.

High-CV Thermal Dominates, Met Coal Transition Looms:

  • High-calorie thermal coal comprised 72% of sales in the December quarter, but this will change significantly after April.
  • The Blackwater and Daunia acquisitions will boost annual production to around 31.0 mt and shift the sales mix to 60% met coal and 40% thermal.
  • Whitehaven is even exploring selling a 20% stake in Blackwater to global steel producers as strategic partners.

Price Realities and Future Prospects:

  • Average realized coal prices fell significantly compared to last year, reflecting market dynamics.
  • However, hard coking coal prices are strengthening, which bodes well for Whitehaven’s future met coal dominance.
  • The company maintains its 2024 production guidance at 18.7-20.7 mt (run-of-mine basis), with Maules Creek leading the charge.
  • First exports from the Vickery thermal coal project are expected in mid-2024.

Financial Snapshot and Domestic Obligations:

  • Whitehaven ended 2023 with a net cash position of A$1.5 billion, supported by a five-year credit facility for US$1.1 billion.
  • The company provided 0.15 mt of coal to the NSW Domestic Coal Reservation Scheme, fulfilling its quota and securing a stable market channel.

Looking Ahead:

Whitehaven Coal is navigating a critical transition period. While maintaining current production levels in the short term, its future lies in the successful integration of the Blackwater and Daunia mines, capitalizing on the booming met coal market. With a solid financial footing and strategic partnerships in the pipeline, the company appears well-positioned to become a major player in the global met coal landscape.