TIM SANSBURY'S INSIDE TALK ON COAL

TIM SANSBURY'S INSIDE TALK ON COAL

ONE OF 1990'S MOST IMPORTANT INTERNATIONAL COAL MEETINGS is the upcoming U.S.-Japan Coal Conference.

It's not mentioned in the calendar of events section of the National Coal Association's weekly newsletter, which lists many other events that arguably are of less consequence.The press is prohibited, as are government officials, the coal association said. Even the agenda is a secret until after the meeting.

Nevertheless, here are some of the details:

The conference will be held June 6-8 at the Stouffer Waiohai Beach Hotel, on Hawaii's island of Kauai. The conference is chaired by Gary Rathburn, of Mapco Coal Inc., the president of the U.S. Coal Exporters Association, and Katsushige Tanaka of Nippon Steel Corp.

On the first morning, Richard Lawson, president of the National Coal Association, will present a global outlook on coal and the environment. Following will be a talk on Japan's economic outlook from Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd., and speeches by Kobe Steel Ltd. and Nisshin Steel Co. on coking coal demand and usage.

In the afternoon, Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Chichibu Cement will speak about steam coal demand. Then, Peabody Coal Co. and National Steel Corp. will talk about the U.S. coal and steel industries.

The second day will include a speech from the Electric Power Research Institute on the U.S. utility industry, and a U.S. transportation panel with representatives from the Port of Los Angeles, Burlington Northern Railroad, Norfolk Southern Corp., CSX Rail Transport and Amherst Industries.

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A COAL INDUSTRY SUMMIT CONFERENCE on global warming appears to be in the works.

Richard Lawson, president of the National Coal Association, said at a Transportation Table luncheon sponsored by The Journal of Commerce he has invited the leaders of 16 coal-producing groups and associations from around the world to gather to discuss the environmental issue.

It's unclear exactly when and where the summit will take place and what actions could be taken as a result of the meeting. The gathering may coincide with a London coal conference scheduled for April 3-5, 1991. That conference, which is about advanced coal-burning technology, is titled, "Coal in the Environment."

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HANSON INDUSTRIES' DETERMINATION TO COMPLETE its acquisition of Peabody Holding perhaps makes it a moot point.

Still, Amax Inc.'s short-lived bid for Peabody generated some noteworthy comments.

Said a Midwest-based producer-trader somewhat skeptical of the Amax strategy, "Where you want to be is low-sulfur, non-union, deep mines." He said that characterization wouldn't describe Peabody.

An analyst-consultant countered, noting that Peabody's vast holdings include both high- and low-sulfur coal in the East and Midwest, "What they (Amax) would be getting would be a lot of everything."

An Eastern investor, who insisted on anonymity, said, "You could consider it a company without a strategy looking to buy one with a strategy."

Added the Midwest producer, "I'm delighted at the prices" being offered by Amax and Hanson. "A lot of eyebrows have been raised at the prices."

He said the prices offered would be difficult to justify unless there is some "hidden asset" in the form of a non-operating asset, such as a big new coal supply contract.

Amax offered $718.5 million for Newmont Mining Corp.'s 54.97 percent stake in Peabody. Hanson quickly topped the offer with a bid of $725.6 million.

Hanson said Amax's offer "reinforces our confidence in our initial valuation of Peabody."