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Alliance Holdings GP L.P. (AHGP - Snapshot Report) fourth-quarter 2013 earnings of 98 cents per unit beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 8 cents or 8.8%. Reported earnings increased 10.9% year over year due to higher volumes of coal sale and cost control measures undertaken by the partnership.

For 2013, the partnership’s earnings were $3.91 per unit, surpassing the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 2.1%. Also, annual earnings were 19.3% higher than the year-ago figure, primarily due to a decline in interest expense.

Total Revenue

Total revenues at the end of the fourth quarter were $566.6 million, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate by nearly 7.0%. The year-over-year improvement of 3.1% was primarily driven by growth in coal sales, year-over-year growth of 0.9%, Transportation revenues, year-over-year growth of 109.5%, Other sales and operating revenues, year-over-year growth of 119.7%

Alliance Holdings’ total revenues in 2013 surged 8.4% year over year to $2,205.2 million, mainly on the heels of strong coal sales volumes and Transportation revenue.

Operational Update

Alliance Holdings’ total operating expenses were $449.4 million in the fourth quarter 2013, up marginally by 1.41% year over year mainly due to rises in transportation expenses, and higher general and administrative expenses.

The rise in total revenues more than offset the marginal increase in expenses, leading to an expansion in operating margin to 20.6% from 19.4% a year ago.

Interest expenses totaled $7.6 million during fourth quarter of 2014, up 8.2% year over year on the heels of rising long-term debts.

Financial Update

Alliance Holdings’ cash and cash equivalents as of Dec 31, 2013 increased substantially to $98.4 million from $31.1 million as of Dec 31, 2012.

Long-term debt as of Dec 31, 2013, was $831.3 million versus $773.0 million as of Dec 31, 2012.

Cash provided by operating activities in the twelve months ending Dec 31, 2013, was $702.9 million compared with $546.2 million in the year-ago comparable period. Free Cash flow stood at $373.8 million.

In 2013, the partnership invested $329.2 million under its capital spending program.

Cash Distribution Update

During the earnings call, the board of directors of Alliance Holdings announced that the partnership will pay an incremental cash distribution to its unitholders. The new quarterly cash distribution will be 82.75 cents per unit, up 2.5% sequentially and 11.8% year over year.

On an annualized basis, the cash distribution rate will come to $3.31 per unit. The new cash distribution will be paid on Feb 19, 2014, to unitholders of record as of Feb 12, 2014.

Upcoming Release

Peabody Energy Corp. (BTU - Analyst Report) is slated to release its fourth-quarter 2013 earnings on Jan 30. The Zacks Consensus Estimate is pegged at a loss of 8 cents.

SunCoke Energy, Inc. (SXC - Snapshot Report) is slated to release its fourth-quarter 2013 earnings on Jan 30. The Zacks Consensus Estimate is 22 cents.

CONSOL Energy Inc. (CNX - Analyst Report) is slated to release its fourth-quarter 2013 earnings on Jan 31. The Zacks Consensus Estimate is 8 cents.

Zacks Rank

Alliance Holdings GP, LP. currently has a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell).

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