This Day On The Street
Continue to site
ADVERTISEMENT
This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here

Hearing Begins Patriot's Bid To Cut Benefits

By JIM SUHR

ST. LOUIS (AP) â¿¿ A long-awaited bankruptcy hearing began Monday in which a St. Louis-based coal company insists it must significantly cut thousands of retirees' health care and pension benefits or risk liquidation â¿¿ a claim that its miners union strongly rejects.

Patriot Coal Corp.'s proposed benefits cuts have been the most contentious aspect of its bankruptcy case since it filed for Chapter 11 protection last summer, when it estimated it would have to spend $1.6 billion to cover retirees' health care costs.

The United Mine Workers of America union, after weeks of protests in states where Patriot and its former corporate parent Peabody Energy Corp. have operations, has labeled the proposed benefits cuts immoral, drastic and unfair. Miners, along with consumers and local religious leaders, picketed again Monday near Peabody's downtown St. Louis headquarters, and police said more than a dozen of them were arrested.

Peabody accused the union of grandstanding "when it knows that this matter will be decided in the courts" and is between the union and Patriot, not Peabody. Peabody added it "has lived up to its obligations and continues to do so."

The hearing could last through Friday, although U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kathy Surratt-States may not issue a ruling immediately.

Looking to cease pension contributions, Patriot last month gave the union a proposal that would create a trust with a maximum of $300 million from future profit-sharing to fund some level of health benefits. Patriot, seeking to modify its collective bargaining agreements, also would give the union a 35 percent equity stake in the company once it emerges from bankruptcy.

Patriot CEO Bennett Hatfield has called the moves necessary for Patriot's survival and the preservation of more than 4,000 jobs.

Union leaders have said that when it jettisoned Patriot in 2007 as a separate company, Peabody saddled it with pension and long-term health care obligations that invariably would prove too burdensome and have to be shed. On Monday, Peabody called that version "a desperate attempt to rewrite history," noting that "Patriot was highly successful following its launch more than five years ago with significant assets, low debt levels and a market value that more than quadrupled in less than a year."

1 of 3

Check Out Our Best Services for Investors

Action Alerts PLUS

Portfolio Manager Jim Cramer and Director of Research Jack Mohr reveal their investment tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
Quant Ratings

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
Stocks Under $10

David Peltier uncovers low dollar stocks with serious upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
14-Days Free
Only $9.95
14-Days Free
Submit an article to us!
SYM TRADE IT LAST %CHG

Markets

DOW 17,933.50 -136.90 -0.76%
S&P 500 2,094.76 -19.73 -0.93%
NASDAQ 4,946.6310 -70.2980 -1.40%

Partners Compare Online Brokers

Free Reports

Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs