Moody’s outlook for global coal is stable; long-term issues remain

The Nation, September 30, 2020

The outlook for the global coal industry is stable, with demand and pricing benchmarks expected to improve over the next 12-18 months, according to Moody’s inaugural assessment of coal prospects.

“An improving global economy sets the stage for some recovery in demand in the most important coal-consuming sectors, including power generation and steelmaking,” said Benjamin Nelson, an analyst at Moody’s Investors Service.

“An improving supply/demand balance will also modestly lift coal pricing in most regions in 2021.”

Moody’s expectations for the global coal industry are:

  • EBITDA will increase more than 10% in 2021 but remain below 2019 levels.
  • Prices for thermal coal and met coal in 2021 to remain lower than 2019 levels
  • A modest Asia-Pacific recovery in 2021
  • Coal demand in Europe will also recover somewhat in 2021
  • The North American coal market will post a more modest rebound in 2021

Longer-term risks remain substantial beyond the horizon of the outlook, said Moody’s. Coal producers’ access to capital is diminishing as investors move away from coal due to ESG concerns, and energy intensity in the OECD markets is falling, with demand for electricity lagging economic growth, it added.