Monday, May 23, 2011
I read a recent article in Forbes about Peabody Energy. In 2003, when he became COO, Greg Boyce foresaw that China, with it's incredible growth rate, would switch from being a net exporter to a net importer of coal.
When he became CEO in 2005, he spun off the company's Appalachian mines and invested in Australian coal mines so he could sell to China. Since he has been CEO, the shares are up 10 fold and non-U.S. operations now provide 50% of Peabody's earnings (up from 2%).
The Forbes article mentioned 2 of Boyce's actions that really impressed me as clever, and long term strategic:
1. Before China became a net importer of coal, he laid the groundwork by opening a Beijing office and a trading desk, so he could build trust and relations.
Also, as I previously mentioned, he invested in Australian mines because Australia has more coal than they need domestically, and are close to Asia. He purposely invested in Australian mines that had access to ports, so he could keep logistic costs down.
2. The next big thing is Mongolia. In the Gobi Desert, they have the world's largest untapped deposits of metallurgical coal (better quality then the subbituminous coal found in the U.S.), and are starting to shop around development rights. Besides Peabody, lots of American, Chinese, European, and Russian companies are vying to develop these fields.
To position themselves for this opportunity, Peabody wants to have a local staff of experienced managers. So, today, they are investing in Mongolia by hiring Mongolian engineers to work in their Wyoming coal mines, and are sending Mongolian students to U.S. engineering schools.