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Ken Helle | Times (2008)
Victor Patrick, vice chairman of Walter Industries, talks with members of his board before the company's annual meeting.
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Company information
May 2009

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

Financials
(Year ended Dec. 31, 2008)

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.

Corporate culture
May 2008

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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