Commodities & Metals

Fertilizer Stocks May Be Fully Valued

Fertilizer maker Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. (NYSE: POT) is expected to report earnings on Thursday, and post earnings per share (EPS) of $1.02 on revenue of $2.37 billion. A year ago the company put up EPS of $0.96 on sales of $2.19 billion. The EPS estimate for this year has dropped by $0.05 since the end of the first quarter, which should make it easier for Potash Corp. to hit the earnings target.

Most of the expectations for fertilizer companies like Potash Corp., Mosaic Co. (NYSE: MOS), Agrium Inc. (NYSE: AGU), Syngenta AG (NYSE: SYT), CF Industries Inc. (NYSE: CF) and Intrepid Potash Inc. (NYSE: IPI) are based on the poor outlook for this year’s crops. The thinking goes that purchases will rise as farmers buy more fertilizer to boost next year’s crop. That is probably true to some extent, but it is worth remembering that not all fertilizer is created equal.

The heaviest demand for fertilizer for the coming year is expected to fall on nitrogen. In the first quarter of this year, both Agrium and CF Industries pounded analysts’ estimates on higher sales and prices of nitrogen products. Potash Corp., Mosaic and Intrepid posted weak results as prices for phosphates rose and potash prices fell.

Mosaic, which reported quarterly earnings last week, posted EPS of $1.19, which was better than analysts had expected, and the company’s board doubled its dividend payment to an annual $1.00 per share.

Because crop plantings were pulled forward this year due to the unusually warm winter weather, second-quarter sales and profits could be lower than expected for potash companies. Fertilizer companies, especially potash producers, could have seen all the boost they are going to get for a while.

The Market Vectors Agribusiness ETF (NYSEMKT: MOO) is inactive in the premarket this morning. The shares closed at $48.99 last night, in a 52-week range of $39.86 to $56.22.

Paul Ausick