By St. Louis Business Journal

Peabody Energy said Tuesday its fourth-quarter profit more than doubled to $210 million, up from $92.2 million a year earlier, thanks to higher coal prices and volumes sold.

The St. Louis coal mining company (NYSE: BTU) reported revenue of $1.82 billion for the quarter ended Dec. 31, up 17 percent from $1.55 billion in the prior-year period.

For the full year of 2010, Peabody reported a profit of $774 million on revenue of $6.9 billion, up from a profit of $448.2 million on revenue of $6 billion in 2009.

Chairman and Chief Executive Gregory Boyce said Peabody delivered its second-best year in company history. While heavy flooding and rains disrupted operations in Australia, he said, they also result in "significant market upside for Peabody's unpriced metallurgical and thermal export coal beyond the first quarter."

Peabody is in "expansion mode to serve the seaborne Pacific markets, which have the greatest sustainable growth opportunities and pricing leverage," Boyce said in the earnings release. He called the demand for coal for making steel and electricity in China, India and other Asian markets the start of a "long-term supercycle."

"The long-term supercycle for coal is strengthening with each passing day," Boyce said. "Nations such as China and India are growing 8 to 10 percent per year off a much larger base. Hundreds of millions of people each year are moving to the cities, switching on technologies and extending coal's role as the fastest-growing fuel."

Peabody said it projects capital expenditures of $900 million to $950 million in 2011, including $500 million to $550 million earmarked for new mines, expansion and extension projects. Approximately 70 percent of the growth and expansion capital is targeted for Australia, which feeds coal to Asia, with the remainder in the United States, the company said.

Last week, Peabody said it reached two deals with Chinese companies to develop coal mines and coal-powered electric plants there.

Copyright 2011 American City Business Journals

Copyright 2010