Coal Stocks for Your Stocking

Joel Anderson  |

A lump of coal in your stocking, that's always been the threat intended to keep children in line around the Holidays. However, while most people would be fairly upset (or more likely confused) to receive coal for Christmas, the major coal companies of the country would never see it that way. As of 2008, more than half of the nation's electricity came from coal fired power plants, and here are some of the companies providing it.

Alpha Natural Resources, Inc. (ANR)

Alpha Natural Resources is a coal mining company and one of the largest in the country. It came into existence in 2002 and has quickly risen close to the top of the heap through the acquisition of other coal companies, including The Brink Company's (BCO) Virginia coal business, Coastal Coal Company, American Metals and Coal International's coal business, and Mears Enterprises, Inc. The company also engaged in a major merger with Foundation Coal in 2009, but none of these are the most notable acquisition made by Alpha.

Perhaps no company in the country would be more deserving of Santa's naughty list than Massey Energy, which Alpha purchased in June for $7.1 billion. Massey Energy operated the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County, WV where 29 miners were killed after an April 5, 2010 coal dust explosion. Earlier this month, Alpha settled Massey's corporate criminal liabilities with the US Attorney for $209 million after the Mine Safety and Health administration released a final report showing flagrant safety violations, but the US Attorney's office was clear that his did not mean that criminal charges couldn't still be brought against former Massey executives.

Peabody Energy Corp. (BTU)

Peabody Energy is the largest private sector coal company in the entire world. Its coal fuels approximately 10 percent of the electricity generated in the United States and 2 percent of electricity around the world. Offices across the globe allow Peabody to market, broker, and trade coal internationally, and Peabody operates 28 mining operations across the United States. Founded in 1883 by Francis Peabody, the company started with mining in Illinois and expanded from there into the juggernaut it is today.

Arch Coal Inc (ACI)

Arch Coal is the second largest supplier of coal in the United States, trailing only Peabody, and is responsible for almost 15 percent of the domestic market. Arch Coal, which grew out of a Ashland Oil (now Ashland, Inc.) and the Hunt family of Dallas, TX, now owns and operates 21 mines in Appalachia and the west that have 3.1 billion tons of proven and probable coal reserves. Arch Coal is based in St. Louis, MO.

Walter Energy, Inc. ($WLT)

Walter Energy is the world's leading pure-play provider of metallurgical coal for the global steel industry, setting it aside from the other companies on this list. This Alabama-based company was formerly called Walter Industries and was founded in 1946 by James W. Walter, Sr. The company also works in also produces steam coal, coal bed methane gas, and metallurgical coke.

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DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions. To read our full disclosure, please go to:

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