Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Alliance Resource Partners long term changes


This is the second post in my Alliance Resources series. The first post is here

When I get researching a company I have been known to read very old filings just to see how business has changed over time. In a case like Alliance Resource Partners this is critical. ARLP is by-far the best performed coal mining company in America and it has had the same management team since the late 1990s. The changes since that time have all be wrought by management and circumstance.

This company's record is so extraordinary that it is worth understanding it in a very long term manner.

So I started with the oldest Alliance Resources 10-K in the SEC database.

From the form 10-K for the fiscal year 1999 here are the balance sheet:



And the P&L



You will see that gross plant and equipment was $278 million with $103 million of accumulated depreciation.

Here is the production data as given from the same form 10-K.
In 1999, we produced 14.1 million tons of coal and sold 15.0 million tons of coal. The coal we produced in 1999 was 19.9% low-sulfur coal, 19.9% medium-sulfur coal and 60.2% high-sulfur coal. In 1999, approximately 85% of our medium- and high-sulfur coal was sold to utility plants with installed pollution control devices, also known as "scrubbers," to remove sulfur dioxide.
We can work out that they thus produced 2.8 million tons of low sulfur coal, 2.8 million tons of medium sulfur coal and 8.5 million tons of high sulfur coal.

The gross plant and equipment needed to produce a ton of coal was (278/14.1=) $19.7. In other words each ton of production required $19.7 worth of property plant and equipment at cost.

The above mentioned 10-K gave us some operating data as well:



In those days revenue per ton of coal was $23.12 and costs per ton was $18.75. The margin was just under $6 per ton. Maintenance capital expenditure was $6 million - or about 43c per ton of coal produced.

Depreciation, depletion and amortization was $39.7 million or $2.82 per ton.

The company also gave employment data:
EMPLOYEES 
We have approximately 1,360 employees, including 100 corporate employees and 1,260 employees involved in active mining operations. Our work-force is entirely union-free. Relations with our employees are generally good, and there have been no recent work stoppages or union organizing campaigns among our employees.
You can work out from this that each employee produced 10,367 tons of coal annually, each mine employee roughly 11,200 tons of coal annually.

To see the changes wrought we need to compare to the latest 10-K.

Here is the most recent balance sheet:






CONSOLIDATED BALANCE SHEETS
DECEMBER 31, 2012 AND 2011
(In thousands, except unit data)



December 31,
20122011
ASSETS
CURRENT ASSETS:
Cash and cash equivalents
$28,283$273,528
Trade receivables
172,724128,643
Other receivables
1,0193,525
Due from affiliates
6585,116
Inventories
46,66033,837
Advance royalties
11,4927,560
Prepaid expenses and other assets
20,47611,945
Total current assets
281,312464,154
PROPERTY, PLANT AND EQUIPMENT:
Property, plant and equipment, at cost
2,361,8631,974,520
Less accumulated depreciation, depletion and amortization
(832,293)(793,200)
Total property, plant and equipment, net
1,529,5701,181,320
OTHER ASSETS:
Advance royalties
23,26727,916
Due from affiliate
3,084
Equity investments in affiliates
88,51340,118
Other long-term assets
30,22618,010
Total other assets
145,09086,044
TOTAL ASSETS
$1,955,972$1,731,518
LIABILITIES AND PARTNERS' CAPITAL
CURRENT LIABILITIES:
Accounts payable
$100,174$96,869
Due to affiliates
327494
Accrued taxes other than income taxes
19,99815,873
Accrued payroll and related expenses
38,50135,876
Accrued interest
1,4352,195
Workers' compensation and pneumoconiosis benefits
9,3209,511
Current capital lease obligations
1,000676
Other current liabilities
19,57215,326
Current maturities, long-term debt
18,00018,000
Total current liabilities
208,327194,820
LONG-TERM LIABILITIES:
Long-term debt, excluding current maturities
773,000686,000
Pneumoconiosis benefits
59,93154,775
Accrued pension benefit
31,07827,538
Workers' compensation
68,78664,520
Asset retirement obligations
81,64470,836
Long-term capital lease obligations
18,6132,497
Other liabilities
9,1476,774
Total long-term liabilities
1,042,199912,940
Total liabilities
1,250,5261,107,760
COMMITMENTS AND CONTINGENCIES
PARTNERS' CAPITAL:
Limited Partners—Common Unitholders 36,874,949 and 36,775,741 units outstanding, respectively
1,020,823943,325
General Partners' deficit
(273,113)(279,107)
Accumulated other comprehensive loss
(42,264)(40,460)
Total Partners' Capital
705,446623,758
TOTAL LIABILITIES AND PARTNERS' CAPITAL
$1,955,972$1,731,518
   


And here is the most recent P&L statement:



CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF INCOME
FOR THE YEARS ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2012, 2011 AND 2010
(In thousands, except unit and per unit data)



Year Ended December 31,
201220112010
SALES AND OPERATING REVENUES:
Coal sales
$1,979,437$1,786,089$1,551,539
Transportation revenues
22,03431,93933,584
Other sales and operating revenues
32,83025,53224,942
Total revenues
2,034,3011,843,5601,610,065
EXPENSES:
Operating expenses (excluding depreciation, depletion and amortization)
1,303,2911,131,7501,009,935
Transportation expenses
22,03431,93933,584
Outside coal purchases
38,60754,28017,078
General and administrative
58,73752,33450,818
Depreciation, depletion and amortization
218,122160,335146,881
Asset impairment charge
19,031
Total operating expenses
1,659,8221,430,6381,258,296
INCOME FROM OPERATIONS
374,479412,922351,769
Interest expense (net of interest capitalized of $8,436, $14,797 and $888, respectively)
(28,684)(21,954)(30,062)
Interest income
229375200
Equity in loss of affiliates, net
(14,650)(3,404)
Other income
3,115983851
INCOME BEFORE INCOME TAXES
334,489388,922322,758
INCOME TAX EXPENSE (BENEFIT)
(1,082)(431)1,741
NET INCOME
$335,571$389,353$321,017
GENERAL PARTNERS' INTEREST IN NET INCOME
$106,837$86,251$73,172
LIMITED PARTNERS' INTEREST IN NET INCOME
$228,734$303,102$247,845
BASIC AND DILUTED NET INCOME PER LIMITED PARTNER UNIT
$6.12$8.13$6.68
DISTRIBUTIONS PAID PER LIMITED PARTNER UNIT
$4.1625$3.6275$3.205
WEIGHTED AVERAGE NUMBER OF UNITS OUTSTANDING—BASIC AND DILUTED
36,863,02236,769,12636,710,431
   



And here is the production data:
 In 2012, we sold a record 35.2 million tons of coal and produced a record 34.8 million tons of coal, of which 3.8% was low-sulfur coal, 18.8% was medium-sulfur coal and 77.4% was high-sulfur coal. In 2012, we sold 93.1% of our total tons to electric utilities, of which 98.7% was sold to utility plants with installed pollution control devices.
Again we can work out that they produced 1.3 million tons of low sulfur coal, 6.5 million tons of medium sulfur coal and 26.9 million tons of high sulfur coal.

Note that the (high value) low sulfur coal has declined in both relative and absolute terms and this has become almost entirely a high-sulfur coal company company dependent on plants with sulfur scrubbers.

The most profound change is just how capital intensive this business has become. The company has now employed $2,362 million in gross property, plant and equipment with accumulated depreciation of 823 million.

Bluntly - the amount of capital employed here has risen enormously. The gross property, plant and equipment per ton of coal produced is now $67.87 - up a long way from $19.70 per ton.

The last 12 years in the US have not been a period of massive inflation - and the rise in capital intensity of this business is - well - surprising. The capital intensity of this business has gone up 345 percent. The capital employed per incremental ton of capacity is very large indeed.

Here are the employee numbers from the last form 10-K:
To conduct our operations, as of February 1, 2013, we employed 4,345 full-time employees, including 4,091 employees involved in active mining operations, 86 employees in other operations, and 168 corporate employees. Our work force is entirely union-free. We believe that relations with our employees are generally good.
From this we see what I think is the most unusual thing about all the giant capital spend at Alliance Resource Partners. The huge capital equipment spend has not improved labor productivity. Production is now 8009 tons per employee per year - and about 8500 tons per mining employee per year.

Despite all that capital equipment spend labor productivity has dropped by more than 20 percent. Strange.

Moreover the non-mine employees have risen from to 100 to 254 - a rise somewhat faster than the total production has grown. Labor productivity has dropped and the company has become more bureaucratic white-collar heavy.

The company also publishes a long list of operating metrics in the 10-K.


 Our historical financial data below were derived from our audited consolidated financial statements as of and for the years ended December 31, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008.
Year Ended December 31,
(in millions, except unit, per unit and per ton data)20122011201020092008
Statements of Income
Sales and operating revenues:
Coal sales
$1,979.4$1,786.1$1,551.5$1,163.9$1,093.1
Transportation revenues
22.031.933.645.744.7
Other sales and operating revenues
32.925.624.921.418.7
Total revenues
2,034.31,843.61,610.01,231.01,156.5
Expenses:
Operating expenses (excluding depreciation, depletion and amortization)
1,303.31,131.81,009.9797.6801.9
Transportation expenses
22.031.933.645.744.7
Outside coal purchases
38.654.317.17.523.8
General and administrative
58.852.350.841.137.2
Depreciation, depletion and amortization
218.1160.3146.9117.5105.3
Asset impairment charge
19.0
Gain from sale of coal reserves
(5.2)
Net gain from insurance settlement and other(1)
(2.8)
Total operating expenses
1,659.81,430.61,258.31,009.41,004.9
Income from operations
374.5413.0351.7221.6151.6
Interest expense (net of interest capitalized)
(28.7)(22.0)(30.1)(30.8)(22.1)
Interest income
0.20.40.21.03.7
Equity in loss of affiliates, net
(14.7)(3.4)
Other income
3.21.00.91.30.9
Income before income taxes
334.5389.0322.7193.1134.1
Income tax expense (benefit)
(1.1)(0.4)1.70.7(0.5)
Net income
$335.6$389.4$321.0$192.4$134.6
Less: Net loss attributable to noncontrolling interest
(0.2)(0.4)
Net income attributable to Alliance Resource Partners, L.P. ("Net Income of ARLP")
$335.6$389.4$321.0$192.2$134.2
General Partners' interest in Net Income of ARLP
$106.8$86.3$73.2$60.7$45.7
Limited Partners' interest in Net Income of ARLP
$228.8$303.1$247.8$131.5$88.5
Basic and diluted net income of ARLP per limited partner unit(2)
$6.12$8.13$6.68$3.56$2.39
Distributions paid per limited partner unit
$4.1625$3.6275$3.205$2.95$2.53
Weighted average number of units outstanding-basic and diluted
36,863,02236,769,12636,710,43136,655,55536,604,707
Balance Sheet Data:
Working capital
$73.0$269.3$348.7$54.9$239.8
Total assets
1,956.01,731.51,501.31,051.41,030.6
Long-term obligations(3)
791.6688.5704.2422.5440.8
Total liabilities(4)
1,250.51,107.81,045.5730.4740.4
Partners' capital(4)
$705.5$623.7$455.8$321.0$290.2
Other Operating Data:
Tons sold
35.231.930.325.027.2
Tons produced
34.830.828.925.826.4
Coal sales per ton sold(5)
$56.28$55.95$51.21$46.60$40.23
Cost per ton sold(6)
$38.15$37.15$33.90$32.23$30.39
Other Financial Data:
Net cash provided by operating activities
$555.9$574.0$520.6$282.7$261.0
Net cash used in investing activities
(623.4)(401.1)(295.0)(320.1)(184.1)
Net cash provided by (used in) financing activities
(177.7)(238.9)92.7(186.6)166.8
EBITDA(7)
581.1570.8499.5340.4257.8
Maintenance capital expenditures(8)
282.6192.790.596.177.7



We can work out a few more things here - for instance the maintenance capital expenditures are now 282.6 million dollars annually. That is $8.12 per ton produced per year. Back in 1999 maintenance capital expenditure was only 43c per ton produced per year.

That is an 18 fold increase in maintenance requirements per ton produced per year.

An unmitigated record of operational failure

This is very puzzling indeed. Financially this is the best performed coal operation in North America - the stock price is near the all time high. The distributions paid by this MLP are large and increasing. People sing the praises of this management team (particularly on Seeking Alpha but also in the comments on my blog).

But the operational facts on the ground tell a radically different story. This management team demonstrate unparalleled operational failure. The company has radically increased its capital expenditure - and the capital intensity of the business has gone up roughly 350 percent. This is a big-spending management team.

Despite that (and despite their non-unionized workforce) labor productivity has dropped more than 20 percent. And the workforce has become more bureaucratic.

Finally all this new - and seemingly expensive machinery - needs to be maintained. And the maintenance expenditure which was once only 43c per ton per year (less than 2 percent of the price received per ton of coal) is now over $8 per ton of output (over 14 percent of the price received per ton). This business is way more expensive to maintain.

On an operational level this is seemingly the worst run mining operation in the United States (and I am including the bankrupt Patriot Coal). And yet the company has had unparalleled financial success.

Why this might be is the subject of a few more posts.






John

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi John

Declining productivity and increased capital intensity in a mining company are not necessarily the result of poor management. You can only come to that conclusion if you make the assumption that their reserves and resources are totally uniform. I don't know Alliance but most older mining businesses end up working the deeper/peripheral parts of their reserves, with significantly different extraction economics. So there is a chance that management could actually be doing a great job given the grade and depth of their current resources compared to history.

John Hempton said...

I agree - they may have a stuff resource... I should correct - But hey - if they have a stuffed resource then they are also unlikely to be the best performing coal mining company in America.

So it is still something else.

John

Ruyiswick said...

John

their op margin per ton in the last 4 years has been 40%, 40%, 46% and 46% -- these are not just neat numbers; they are also dramatically rising numbers; from which I conclude that their customers are idiots and their competitors inept fools. another conclusion is that their coal is intellectual-property protected high-tech coal with intuitive user interface and a really responsive touch-screen

John Hempton said...

Ruyiswick - get in contact with me - but I think you might have the right idea...

John

But What do I Know? said...

Ah, yes, the old capitalizing expenses routine--a classic accounting ploy. . . Thanks for writing this up, JH.

Ben said...

We looked at James River Coal a few years ago, who locked in high pricing and was over earning for some time but is high cost. I guess the question is how much are they over earning based on their contract pricing and when does this fall off? Not much disclosure in their 10-K that I could find on their contract pricing, although they say customers can renegotiate.

John said...

never looked at ARLP, but they should get a slight premium for their coal because they have good river access. 35% barges is high for coal shipments and barges are obviously cheapest method of transportation. "Approximately 52.3% of our 2012 sales volume was initially shipped from the mines by rail, 13.1% was shipped from the mines by truck and 34.6% was shipped from the mines by barge. In 2012, the largest volume transporter of our coal shipments was the CSX railroad which moved approximately 33.0% of our tonnage over its rail system."

Anonymous said...

Declining capital efficiency for resources companies from 1999 to 2012 is hardly surprising. Just a correlary of the commodity boom that occured in the period - hard to base a short case just on that. Examples:

XOM - gross pp&e / production up 2.2x from 1999 to 2012. this is possibly the best run resource company around.

CVX, another well run company has that metric up 2.9x during the same period.

Alliance up 3.6x so higher but not orders of magnitude. The 1999-2008 period saw not only a large boom in commodity prices (be it oil or coal), but the capital costs to get these out of the ground...

Anonymous said...

John,
as other commented, I believe the rising cap expenditure going up is to be expected (and I blame Australia! :) ). That said, mining companies should be fairly comparable - you're digging up commodity and shipping it off, so managing the costs (even if they are rising due to factors outside of your control) is key. I don't know how they compare on costs/productivity with other US miners (and don't have time to do so, but assume you did), but if the metrics are more or less the same, someone is cooking with gas, not coal.

Jon S. said...

Nice catch, John. ARLP's customer base looks a lot like patriot's, revenue is about patriot's, a small mining operation somewhat larger than James River.

Market cap is 2x Arch's, more than 2x cloud peak's. Insane. Price to book, price to sales, totally insane. I am mad.

You should talk dirty more often.

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Anonymous said...

Look at the metrics for JOY Global and Bucyrus. The capital inflation in this industry has been well publicized -- much higher than CPI.

Plus, all these coal mines have a lot more regulatory capex (safety, environmental) than they did 10 years ago.

The drop in labor productivity is the most surprising part to me -- higher than I had expected. That said, productivity in the entire coal industry has been dropping for a number of years... (early 2000s?)

Ruyiswick said...

I think I worked out WHY the operating margin per ton HAS to rise:

1. assume that your business model calls for eternally rising profits (i.e. the show blows up if the music stops playing)

2. assume further that you are not realistically able to fake your dollar sales (because you only have 10 clients of whom all are public entities) and

3. that you are unable to fake the tons (because they belong to someone else to whom you pay royalties)

THEN IT FOLLOWS that THE ONLY WAY you can show rising profits is by showing rising operating margin per ton.

and hence, presto, the ARLP operating margin rises from peer high of 40% to astronomical 46%.

the problem is... what next? you have already shown 46% operating profit per ton twice in a row... the business model calls for another rise this year. are you going to report a 54% operating margin per ton?

or are you going to do something creative? perhaps... buy someone in a humongously accretive transaction.

buy... RNO?

(incidentally, when did you say ARLP runs into loan their covenants?)

Anonymous said...

They look like an Australian coal operation. They are simply relying on price pressure to keep themselves profitable. It's a dangerous game, as we've discovered, particularly with the rubbish they are mining. Their management team seems to have been focussed on sales, and ramping up production into those contracts. If the contracts fall over they will lock the gates.

Anonymous said...

I may sound stupid here, but if you cannot fake your sales and purchases (see post 2:53 AM), how do you raise the operating profit margin?
All I can imagine is that all future oriented costs are not or incompletely booked (environmental, maintenance, water treatment, retirement obligations, ...).
Every cents of investment is spend to achieve higher volume, and all other costs are ignored.
The chairman and main shareholder of AHGP is Craft J III, a billionaire. Many billionaires in commodities achieved it by consuming the common goods.

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The content contained in this blog represents the opinions of Mr. Hempton. Mr. Hempton may hold either long or short positions in securities of various companies discussed in the blog based upon Mr. Hempton's recommendations. The commentary in this blog in no way constitutes a solicitation of business or investment advice. In fact, it should not be relied upon in making investment decisions, ever. It is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader, and the author.  In particular this blog is not directed for investment purposes at US Persons.