Coal producer Alpha Natural Resources (Fortune 500) bought coal miner Massey Energy in 2011 for $7 billion. The acquisition "could not have come at a worse time," wrote a Morningstar analyst in a recent report. ,
Massey is in Appalachia, where miners have started scaling back production. Bargain-basement natural gas prices drove down coal consumption. In the time since the purchase, the price of coal has come down -- but not enough to be competitive with gas.
Further headaches abound for the company. A slowdown in China could threaten Alpha's metallurgical business. A weak global economy is taking a toll, and environmental regulations aren't helping.
Those problems aren't going away any time soon, and Alpha is scrambling to adjust. The second largest coal producer in the U.S. by revenue, it announced in September that it would idle eight mines and eliminate 1,200 jobs. Morningstar cautioned investors about the outlook ahead: "2013 may turn out to be tougher than 2012."
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