Address: 4211 W Boy Scout Blvd., Tampa, FL 33607; (813) 871-4811; www.walterind.com
Business: After spinning off its housing financial business and closing its homebuilding activities, Walter Industries took a new name that better reflects its tighter focus on producing metallurgical coal, steam coal and methane gas primarily for the steel industry
Ticker symbol, market: WLT, NYSE
Market capitalization: $1.37 billion, down from $3.57 billion
Chairman: Michael Tokarz
Employees: 2,150, down from 2,500
Revenue: $1.5 billion, up 20 percent
Net income: $347 million, up 332 percent
Per share: $6.35, up 335 percent
Return on equity: 99 percent
Biggest challenge: Whether a new name and simpler business plan give Walter a new lease on life remains to be seen. High coal prices are softening amid a global decline in demand for steel. That's dropped Walter's short-term forecast for operating income for metallurgical steel by $3 to $8 a ton. "We're in a difficult market cycle right now," said George Richmond, president of Jim Walter Resources, the company's mining unit.
Coal price spurs investment in mining
Gary Shortt's commute to work is tougher than most. Car ride: 32 miles. Elevator: 1,735 feet, straight down. Underground rail car: 7 miles.
But these days, the 54-year-old coal-mine supervisor is feeling downright spunky about going to work. You might too, if your employer and its stock price were doing as well as Tampa's Walter Industries. With metallurgical coal fetching record prices in the global marketplace — it's used to turn lead into steel — subsidiary Jim Walter Resources of Brookwood, Ala., is expanding production as fast as it safely can.
Shortt is seeing the growth firsthand. His crew of 45 operates the only longwall machine in Mine No. 7. But Jim Walter is gearing up to add a second 850-foot-wide mechanism and crew, preparations for which cost the company $72-million last year.
In a small way, Shortt is sharing in Walter's stock-price surge; the company provided matching shares for open-market purchases he made. But job security may be the biggest benefit.
"When the (coal) pricing's low, then you're kind of worried if the mine's going to stay, if it's going to exist," he said. "It's always a better feeling to know you're making a lot of money than just squeaking by."
&mdash Times Staff Writer
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