Potash Corp. Earnings Limited by Lower Margins

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Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. (NYSE: POT) reported first-quarter 2013 results before markets opened this morning.

The fertilizer maker reported diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $0.63 on revenue of $2.1 billion. In the same period a year ago, Potash reported diluted EPS of $0.56 on revenue of $1.75 billion. First-quarter results also compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for EPS of $0.59 and $1.82 billion in revenue.

Demand for the company’s potash fertilizer was high, with shipments up by nearly 1 million metric tons (tonnes) compared with the first quarter a year ago. However margins for potash slipped from $260 per tonne to $227 per tonne. Nitrogen shipments also rose, and margins improved from $160 per tonne to $187. Margins fell most sharply in the company’s phosphate sales, from $160 per tonne last year to $98 this year.

Potash reaffirmed its full-year EPS guidance of $2.75 to $3.25 a share and second-quarter guidance of $0.70 to $0.85. That second-quarter estimate is below the consensus EPS estimate of $0.89

The company’s CEO said:

We had significant growth in our potash performance as global buyers returned to the market in earnest after taking a brief pause late in 2012. This environment enabled us to deliver earnings near the top end of our guidance and laid the foundation for what we believe will be a successful year.

The company also noted that it does not intend to go ahead with its plan to acquire a larger stake in Israel Chemicals Ltd. (ICL), saying that “there must be receptivity to foreign investment and certainty in the rules that govern such investment.” Sounds like ICL and the government of Israel were not interested.

Potash shares are up about 0.6% in premarket trading this morning, at $39.89 in a 52-week range of $36.73 to $46.16. Thomson Reuters had a consensus analyst price target of around $46.10 before today’s report.

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