peabody energy

On Thursday before the opening bell, Peabody Energy Corp. (NYSE: BTU) reported its first quarter earnings beat profit estimates thanks to a rise in output and revenue per ton over in Australia.

Australian revenues rose 48 percent, which led to a 17 percent increase in consolidated revenues to $2.04 billion.

Peabody’s net income dropped 2.2 percent to $172.7 million ($0.63 cents per share); this compares to $176.5 million ($0.65 cents) from the previous year. Earnings, minus a tax-related expense, were $0.67 cents, exceeding the $0.55 cent average estimate by analysts.

First quarter sales increased to $2.04 billion, up from $1.74 billion. This missed estimates of $2.09 billion.

In a press release by the company, Peabody Energy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Gregory H. Boyce said of the quarter’s results,

“Peabody delivered increased contributions from both Australian and U.S. mining operations. Our operations contributed higher revenues and margins per ton in all regions, demonstrating the strength of our diverse platform in the face of challenging conditions. Looking forward, our U.S. coal position remains fully priced for 2012, Australian thermal coal demand remains strong, and recent data suggest that metallurgical coal markets have stabilized with upside potential in the second half.”

The company also said on Thursday that it has cut its 2012 U.S. sales volume forecast from 195 million to 205 million tons, down to 185 million to 195 million tons. It has also decreased mine output on declining demand from the winter’s record high U.S. temperatures and a gas decline last seen a decade ago.

Back in January, the company said that its first quarter profit would come in at the low end after previously saying that the range would be between $0.45 cents to $0.65 cents per share after Queensland, Australia incurred damage from storms and flooding; this had resulted in a $50 million cost to volume and subsequent expenses for recovery.

The company also said in its press release on Thursday about its Australian investments, “Peabody continued to generate strong cash flows during the quarter, while investing in key projects to meet rising Australian volume targets for 2012 and beyond. The combination of cash flow generation and modest sustaining capital expenditures gives Peabody the ability to fund previously approved organic growth projects and reduce debt.”