(Adds comments on coal prices, details)
* Lower coal prices could affect dividend policy
* Says keeping 2012 net profit above PLN 1 bln a “challenge”
* Share price drops over 3 pct
WARSAW, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Polish coal miner JSW could cut dividend payouts in the face of a continued slide in coal prices, it said on Friday.
The European Union’s top coking coal producer has a policy of handing out at least 30 percent of consolidated profit to its owners.
“Today, we want to be faithful to our (dividend) obligations from the (IPO) prospectus,” chief executive Jaroslaw Zagorowski told reporters. “But the market situation may change this approach.”
An economic slowdown in Europe has depressed the prices of coking coal that is used for the production of steel.
Additionally, coal-dependent local utilities are trying to pass on the slump in power prices from the past few months to coal suppliers.
“The utility side is initially awaiting a 15-percent price cut (on 2013 supplies). Whether it’s going to be this level or any other is to be seen,” said the miner’s head of sales Waclaw Bedkowski.
The miner’s net profit fell to 1.03 billion zlotys ($314 million) in the first nine months of the year and finance chief Robert Kozlowski said it would be “a challenge” to keep the full-year figure above 1 billion zlotys.
JSW’s fourth-quarter results will be burdened by costs from an agreement over pay rises struck on Thursday with trade unions, who threatened to launch another strike this month, following a 24-hour strike in October.
To reduce its reliance on coking coal, the miner plans to focus on more promising and stable business segments such as steam coal and coal derivatives such as tar.
JSW, which is already investing in small-scale generation to become independent of external power supplies from 2016, also wants to invest in coal-fired power units, alongside local utilities.
At 1155 GMT, the group’s share price was down 3.3 percent, underperforming Warsaw’s large-cap index WIG20, which was down 0.8 percent.
$1 = 3.2767 Polish zlotys Reporting by Maciej Onoszko; Writing by Adrian Krajewski; Editing by Mark Potter