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Solid Energy in talks with banks as finances deteriorate

Solid Energy, the state-owned coal miner whose chief executive quit this month, is in talks with its banks because of its deteriorating financial position.

The coal miner, which is carrying some $389 million of debt, is heading for a "significant" first-half loss, chairman Mark Ford says in a statement.

"We are in discussions with our banks and Treasury on the debt and equity support required for future operations of the business," he says. "A restructuring and turnaround plan for the company is being prepared by the newly appointed board in support of these discussions."

Don Elder resigned this month after 12 years as CEO after most of the company's previous board of directors and hundreds of staff were sent out the door.

In August last year Solid Energy reported a $40 million loss for the year to June 30, the mothballing of the Spring Creek underground coal mine near Greymouth and an end to plans to extend the Huntly East mine in the absence of new contracts with its main customer, the New Zealand Steel mill at Glenbrook.

Writedowns of $151.7 million were included in the result, with further post-balance date writedowns yet to be declared.

Mr Ford says Solid Energy's performance has also been hampered by weak world coal prices, which touched $US140 a tonne in September, down from $US224 in June.

"This coal market downturn has resulted in weak prices negatively impacting the company's operating results for the half year," he says.

State-Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall says Solid Energy is facing "very significant financial challenges".

"The new chairman and board are focusing on a return to a core coal business which is viable at current world prices. The public is aware that there had already been restructuring at the company but more may be required."

Mr Ryall and Finance Minister Bill English have called a press conference on the matter.

(BusinessDesk)

Comments and questions
5

Easily fixed -

1. Get Don to pay back some of the huge salary he prior earned
2. Don't pay Don the rumoured $1.5 million in departure bonus he is apparently seeking
3. Sell their stake in Pike and the railway siding they overpaid for - and given their now perilous financial situation will never be in a position to open
4. Sell the Southland farms that they overpaid for
5. Take 15% off the inflated management salaries of the organisation
6. Slash management numbers by 15%

"...which touched $US140 a tonne in September, down from $US224 in June."

Why have coal users in NZ not seen any reduction in the price they pay?

Operating and maintenance costs need to be slashed. The salary Don Elder was making is criminal. For a 2 million tonne per year mine, a mine manager would make maybe $300K and Solid Energy makes just a little over this. The whole organisation was top heavy with non performers.

Which banks?

Westpac is right in with .gov.nz ... must be them that gonna wear this pup?

Trading insolvent?