July 14, 2020 / 1:53 AM / 25 days ago

UPDATE 2-Australia's Whitehaven Coal beats quarterly output forecasts, shares jump

* Shares jump as much as 14 pct on strong production

* Expects decision on Vickery project approval in weeks

* Notes coronavirus impact on customer demand (Adds analyst comment, share price movement)

MELBOURNE, July 14 (Reuters) - Australia's Whitehaven Coal Ltd posted a 29% jump in fourth-quarter coal production on Tuesday, beating estimates, even as it warned that pricing pressure was likely to continue as the COVID-19 pandemic dents industrial activity.

Whitehaven said in a filing that saleable coal output jumped to 6.2 million tonnes (mt) for the quarter from 4.8 mt for the same period a year earlier, helped by higher production at its Narrabri mine.

Shares climbed as much as 14% before paring gains to trade at A$1.54 by 0130 GMT, up 5.1%, in a subdued Australian market .

"Credit where credit is due ... the numbers show that the company delivered, turning around what was a very awkward couple of quarters," said Peter O'Connor of Shaw and Partners.

The miner said uncertainty surrounding future Chinese import quotas weighed on coal prices in the June quarter, despite high imports of Australian thermal and metallurgical coal to China in the second half of fiscal 2020.

Prices for Whitehaven's thermal coal, used in power generation, slid to $59 a tonne from $84 a year earlier.

Coal prices have slumped as coronavirus-fuelled curbs have disrupted industrial activity in most countries, including top importers Japan and India.

Whitehaven's pulverized coal (PCI) shipments to India were deferred after customers declared force majeure due to coronavirus.

The miner also finalised a A$51.7 million ($36 million) debt export credit agency facility for eight years during the quarter with two Japanese banks and the Nippon Export and Investment Insurance Company.

Due to subdued market conditions, the miner said it would remain cautious in allocating capital to expansion and that it did not expect to consider a final investment decision in relation to its Vickery project in 2020.

The company said it expected a decision from the New South Wales state government on the Vickery project within weeks. ($1 = 1.4409 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Shruti Sonal in Bengaluru and Melanie Burton in Melbourne; Editing by Aditya Soni and Subhranshu Sahu

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