May 14, 2014 / 9:07 AM / in 4 years

UPDATE 1-Czech coal miner NWR narrows loss, sees signs of recovery

(Adds CFO on outlook, capital review, other details, shares)

PRAGUE, May 14 (Reuters) - Czech hard coal miner New World Resources (NWR) pointed to signs of recovery in the market on Wednesday as it posted a narrower first-quarter loss of 26.7 million euros ($36.6 million).

To cope with a drop in coal prices over the past two years, NWR last year cut costs and sold assets and is now in the middle of a major capital structure review.

The miner cited rising steel production in its core markets but said the signs of recovery were still tentative.

Chief Financial Officer Marek Jelinek said a rise in prices for spot coking coal, which makes up the majority of its sales mix, could lead to an increase in contracted prices in the third quarter after a 6 percent decrease in the second quarter.

“There has been a very mild uptick in the spot price (of coking coal) recently. If you combine that with the recent developments in the macro data, you can read initial signs of recovery,” he said in a telephone interview.

“There is some indication of a possible improvement in prices ... If (there) is a rise, it will be perhaps single-digit percentage points.”

NWR runs four hard coal mines in the northeast of the Czech Republic. Sinking coal prices and slack demand from steel firms such as ArcelorMittal and United States Steel Corp have pushed it and other coal miners in the region into record losses.

After a record 18-month recession ended last year, the Czech economy is now starting to accelerate along with those of other countries in central Europe.

NWR’s production rose 4 percent in the first quarter, while revenue was down 18 percent at 172.5 million euros.

The group confirmed its outlook for production and sales to both reach 9 million to 9.5 million tonnes in 2014, compared with 8.8 million in output and 9.7 million in sales last year. It is targeting a mix of 55-60 percent of sales in higher-margin coking coal and the rest in thermal coal.

“The (thermal coal) market is really down. Plus in the relevant central European markets, there are massive amounts of inventory,” Jelinek said.

NWR shares rose to a more than one-week high and were up 0.8 percent at 12.70 crowns at 0901 GMT.

The CFO reiterated that he believed NWR would reach an agreement with shareholders and bondholders on a new capital structure, but he declined to give any details on what a deal might look like or when it could be finished.

The company said in its earnings statement that a resolution was expected by the end of 2014. It had launched the process in January because of a deteriorating market.

NWR’s net debt stood at 651 million euros at the end of the first quarter, up from 625 million at end-2013, and it had cash of 159 million euros, down from 184 million.

“At today’s (coal) prices, we have cash for roughly one more year,” Jelinek said on a later conference call, adding that the company was not planning any more asset sales.

$1 = 0.7296 Euros Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Mark Potter and Jane Baird

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