UPDATE 1-Australia's Whitehaven Coal swings to loss on price slump, forecasts stronger second half

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Feb 17 (Reuters) - Whitehaven Coal said on Wednesday it had swung to a half-yearly loss due to a decline in coal prices and held back dividends, but anticipates a stronger second half as coal markets recover in 2021.

The company said supply curtailments and increase in energy demand in key Asian economies would continue to support higher price environment for coal.

“With future savings targets identified and coal markets rebalancing in response to demand signals, we are optimistic about achieving stronger outcomes through the second half, ” company Chief Executive Paul Flynn said in a statement.

Coal prices took a hit in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic led to the largest drop in coal consumption since World War Two, but have since been on an upward trajectory as key economies emerge from the throes of the pandemic.

Australia ‘s biggest independent coal miner posted a net loss after tax of A$94.5 million ($73.29 million) for six months, compared with a profit of A$27.4 million a year - steeper than a UBS estimate of an interim loss of A$53 million..

Whitehaven did not declare an interim dividend, compared with a distribution of 1.5 cents a share last year. ($1 = 1.2893 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Arundhati Dutta in Bengaluru Editing by Chris Reese and Jonathan Oatis)