Coal revenues were higher than the year-ago period due to the inclusion of $393.8m from the former Foundation operations, which more than offset reduced shipment levels and coal revenues from Alpha’s stand-alone operations as the company continued to match shipments with current customer demand. Other revenues and freight and handling revenues were $45m and $60.8m, respectively, compared to $11.9m and $59m for Alpha stand-alone in 2008.

For the quarter, net income was $18m or $0.15 per diluted share compared to net income of $5.6m or $0.08 per diluted share in the same quarter last year. The fourth quarter 2009 income from continuing operations was $20.2m or $0.17 per diluted share compared to $33.9m or $0.49 per diluted share in the fourth quarter of 2008. EBITDA from continuing operations for the quarter just ended totaled $199.1m, compared to $93.6m in the year ago period.

Kevin Crutchfield, chief executive officer of Alpha Natural Resources, said: “Demand for metallurgical coal appears to be increasing; customer discussions are ongoing; and recent indications suggest that the strength is likely to continue throughout 2010. In response to this increasing demand, we are raising our guidance for metallurgical coal shipments in 2010 to a new range of 11 million tons to 13 million tons. As the largest US supplier of metallurgical coal, Alpha remains highly leveraged to this market with 38% of our planned 2010 metallurgical coal shipments yet to be priced.

“Combined with our expertise in blending and optimization and our ample port capacity including 41% ownership of the DTA terminal, we are well-positioned to benefit from the current momentum in the global metallurgical coal market. With regard to thermal coal, we will continue to scale our production to respond to anticipated demand, and we have adjusted our Eastern thermal shipment guidance to a range of 23 million tons to 26 million tons.”

Mr Crutchfield continued, “Last week Alpha entered into a 50/50 joint venture with Rice Energy, LP through which we are beginning to develop our valuable Marcellus shale gas resource in southwestern Pennsylvania where we control nearly 20,000 acres of one of the Marcellus’ most productive regions. The initial phase of development is underway, and we are currently drilling the first of four wells planned for 2010.

“Rice Energy brings technical and managerial expertise with extensive experience drilling and fracturing wells in the Marcellus, and this partnership enables Alpha to capture value from our Marcellus shale asset without diverting focus away from our coal business.”