Coal companies are confronting both long-term and short-term pressures, as natural gas recently surpassed coal as the top power plant fuel for the first time ever, and producers are feeling the effects of global oversupply.
Those troubles are also leading investors to flee the industry in droves, and they’re being felt acutely in the St. Louis area, home to Peabody Energy and Arch Coal.
St. Louis-based Peabody reduced its downtown workforce by 50 people, to 375, and Creve Coeur-based Arch Coal has reduced its workforce in the area by 20 percent so far this year.
Both companies took on large amounts of debt when the coal market was in better shape, and that’s exacerbating their current struggles. Analysts have expressed doubt about Peabody’s ability to overcome the difficulties, and the company said in June that it would miss its earnings forecast in the second quarter of 2015.