Arch Coal Inc., one of the top American coal producers, filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code Monday in a bid to cut the company’s long-term debt by more than $4.5 billion. Plunging coal prices amid waning demand continue to punish the U.S. coal industry, which in recent months has suffered a string of bankruptcies and widespread layoffs.

Shares of Arch (NYSE: ACI) were down more than 50 percent in early trading Monday.

Arch said it reached a restructuring agreement with a group of lenders that hold more than 50 percent of the company’s $1.9 billion in first-lien debt. In its filing, the St. Louis coal miner proposed a debt-for-equity swap that would give first-lien lenders control of most of the firm. Arch would offer other options to unsecured creditors, including a share of 4 percent of the equity in the restructured entity.

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