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Whitehaven Coal makes big payout

ASX-listed Whitehaven Coal (WHC) is spinning rivers of cash out of the short-term rises in commodity prices, allowing it to deliver its shareholders a A30c per share dividend after delivering a record profit.
Whitehaven Coal makes big payout Whitehaven Coal makes big payout Whitehaven Coal makes big payout Whitehaven Coal makes big payout Whitehaven Coal makes big payout

Haydn Black

Combined with the interim dividend announced in February, a total of 50c will be paid to Whitehaven shareholders for fiscal 2019 after delivery of an underlying net profit after tax of $565 million for the year, breaking the previous record of $525.6 million. 
 
The New South Wales-based thermal and metallurgical coal seller's revenue was up 10% year-on-year to almost $2.5 billion, underlying EBITDA was up 3% to $1.04 billion and cash generated was up 4% to $964 million.
 
Total debts are now down to $415 million and net debt has been reduced to $161 million. 
 
As it reaped in the benefits from selling increased quantities of the fossil fuel, its unit costs were shaved to an average $67 per tonne for the 23.2Mt of run-of mine coal produced, of which 18.4Mt was equity coal for its NSW mines.
 
Sales were 17.6Mt - a record for the company with sales fetching an average $145/t with EBITDA margins of $66/t. 
 
Whitehaven managing director Paul Flynn said the company was going to put its balance sheet to work, pumping even more coal into global markets, with the company keen to boost its thermal coal production.
 
"We are fast approaching a key transformation point in the evolution of Whitehaven that will give rise to a larger, more efficient and better-integrated enterprise, well positioned to take advantage of the demand for high quality coal in the Asian region," he said.
 
But it wasn't all good news. The focus on thermal coal saw increased washing and lower yields relative to the prior year at Maules Creek, where pit development also cost more, and the impact of workings at Narrabri impacted development and longwall production rates, plus increased costs, however the company said actions taken over the past two years were showing signs of improvement. 
 
The company continues to pursue development of its Vickery and Winchester South projects, in addition to the already improved expansion at Tarrawonga to 3Mtpa. 
 
Guidance for the current fiscal year is for production of 22-23.5Mtpa with more than half from Maules Creek, but the miner has warned that markets for thermal coal are weakening due to lower seaborne LNG prices, making cleaner gas a more attractive fuel; Chinese import restrictions; and the negative impact on global GDP from trade tensions between the United States and China.
 
But it expects to benefit as softer prices hurt swing producers in the United States and Colombia and high cost producers in Indonesia and Russia, keeping sales into Asia brisk.
 
However, the short-term outlook for metallurgical coal has weakened in the face of lower margins in steelmaking. 
 
Whitehaven shares were $3.49 this morning, up 0.87% on a day when $38 billion was wiped from the ASX at open.