New Potash Trading Company in Belarus Will Not Change New Market Dynamics

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The Belarusian Potash Company (BPC) lives again. Ever since Russian potash producer Uralkali pulled out of the trading company in late July, its sole partner, Belaruskali, has been fighting the dissolution, primarily by charging the Russian firm’s CEO and its principal owner with abuse of power.

Belarus’s president today signed a decree creating a new potash trading company that also will be called BPC and declared that the Belarusian government would cancel export duties on potash until the end of this year to stabilize the operations of the trading company’s sole member, Belaruskali.

BPC had been one of two major marketing groups for potash. The other, Canpotex, is based in Canada and markets potash production from Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. (NYSE: POT), Agrium Inc. (NYSE: AGU) and the Canadian arm of Mosaic Co. (NYSE: MOS). The two marketing organizations (cartels?) controlled about two-thirds of the world’s production of potash and had for years maintained high prices for potash by limiting production.

Russia’s Uralkali pulled out of BPC and immediately lowered its potash prices in an effort to grab market share. Uralkali’s action virtually immediately lowered the share prices of the three North American producers’ stocks.

Since July 30, the date of Uralkali’s announcement, shares of Potash Corp. and Mosaic have dropped 21%. Shares of Agrium, which depends less on potash production, have fallen 8%. Over the past 12 months, Agrium’s stock is down about 15%, while Potash Corp. and Mosaic shares are down around 28%.

Today’s announcement of the rejuvenated BPC is unlikely to pull the North American stocks up. Russia’s determination to chase volume instead of a stable price has led to steep price declines, and the country shows no inclination to back off.

Shares of Potash Corp. are trading down 0.2% at about noon on Thursday, at $29.86 in a 52-week range of $28.55 to $44.56.

Mosaic’s shares are down 1.1%, at $41.82 in a 52-week range of $39.75 to $64.65.

Agrium’s shares are off 0.8%, at $84.19 in a 52-week range of $77.19 to $115.31.

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