CONSOL Energy (NYSE:CNX) is an Appalachia-based coal and natural gas production company. From its most recent high of $33.34 on May 8, the shares traded down gradually to $9.80, where they ended the quarter. There was no single moment where the shares fell sharply; it was essentially an orderly collapse. Yes, coal and natural gas prices both fell modestly during the decline. Yes, the company’s effort to bring its coal assets public in a separate vehicle was greeted coolly by the market. Yes, there is an oversupply of natural gas in the region, which has caused local realizations and quarterly earnings to fall below plan. We could have mitigated a portion of our loss by hedging natural gas, but with the price already near a historical low, we made the incorrect decision not to hedge the commodity risk.
However, CONSOL Energy has had plenty of overlooked good news. The company went through a significant cost-cutting effort and cut its capital-spending budget aggressively. In July it reported fantastic drilling results and a significant success at a test well in the Utica Shale. Ordinarily, the market responds favorably to positive drilling news. In the current environment, it has responded more like a child receiving socks as a birthday present, “Gee, just what I always wanted … more, cheap natural gas.” We believe the market has undue concern about the near-term prospects for Appalachian coal and natural gas, leading it to discount the company’s long-term resource value far beyond anything we anticipated. Continue Reading »