- Associated Press - Thursday, May 1, 2014

BRISTOL, Va. (AP) - Alpha Natural Resources Inc. said Thursday that it narrowed its first-quarter loss from a year ago as the coal producer lowered its costs.

But CEO Kevin Crutchfield said the quarter was “challenging” for the industry as coal prices dropped and the company lowered its expectations of how much metallurgical coal it expects to ship. Its shares fell nearly 3 percent in trading before the market opened Thursday.

The company sold 21.4 million tons of coal in the quarter, down from 22.9 million tons in the same period a year ago. The weighted average coal margin per ton fell to $3.21 from $6.12 a year ago.

It now expects to ship 15 million to 18 million tons of metallurgical coal this year, down from 16 to 20 million tons.

Alpha Natural narrowed its loss to $55.7 million, or 25 cents per share, in the quarter that ended March 31, from a loss of $110.8 million, or 50 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago. Revenue fell 16.6 percent to $1.11 billion from $1.33 billion. Analysts expected a loss of 57 cents per share and revenue of $1.08 billion, according to FactSet.

Costs and expenses fell 10.8 percent to $1.31 billion from $1.46 billion.

In premarket trading Thursday, shares of the Bristol, Virginia-based company fell 12 cents, or 2.8 percent, to $4.18. Its shares are down 42 percent in the past year.

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