PotashCorp says delayed sales in China, India will result in 2012 profit miss

SASKATOON – Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan is cutting its profit outlook for this year because of delays in reaching contracts with fertilizer customers in China and India.

Earnings for the full 2012 financial year will fall below even the lowest previous estimate of $2.80 to $3.20 per share, PotashCorp said Wednesday.

The Saskatoon-based company (TSX:POT) also said earnings for the third quarter will be at the lower end of its estimate of between 70 and 90 cents per share.

“We have a little slowdown in our Chinese and Indian shipments between now and the end of the year, so it sort of pushes things into 2013,” CEO Bill Doyle told a Saskatoon radio station.

“We see 2013 being a very strong recovery year and it should be good for the potash industry and for Potash Corporation in particular.”

The company intends to provide further details when its third-quarter financial results are released Oct. 25.

As a result in the dip in demand, PotashCorp’s Lanigan and Rocanville mines will be shut for eight-weeks starting Nov. 18 and Dec. 7 respectively.

Doyle said the slowdown should be short term.

“There’s too many people that need to eat and the world is still growing despite some of the macro issues now and we see a very strong year in 2013 and 14.”

The news barely moved the needle with investors on Wednesday. On the Toronto Stock Exchange, PotashCorp stock was down a penny at $41.09 in afternoon trading.

Dundee Capital Markets, looking to next year, is forecasting 2013 earnings per share at $3.37, about 10 per cent below what the Street is expecting.

“We maintain our neutral rating and continue to forecast below consensus for 2013; however, a greater than expected fall in the stock price could present an attractive entry point,” wrote analyst Carolyn Dennis in a note to clients Wednesday.

“We remain cautious on 2013 as we believe it is possible new Potash contracts could be less than expected or at lower than expected potash prices.”

While PotashCorp cited contract delays in Asia for the disappointing outlook, there have also been concerns about how fertilizer producers might be affected by a prolonged drought in much of the United States.

If farmers’ yields aren’t as strong because of the dry conditions, the plants won’t take up all the nutrients in the soil, leaving some of them behind. Phosphate and potash can remain in the soil throughout the winter, whereas nitrogen tends to leach out of soil more easily.

However, PotashCorp said back in July that expected farm production shortfalls this year would support an extended period of crop prices at levels that should encourage high-yield agriculture.

This in turn would encourage rising demand for potash in the years ahead, the company said in an outlook that accompanied its second-quarter results.

At the time, PotashCorp also forecast strong global shipments for the balance of the year, although it warned that 2012 profits would be lower due to the impact of a $341-million impairment charge on its investment in China’s Sinofert Holdings Ltd.

However, with global stockpiles of mineral remaining strong, the company later announced the shutdown of its Lanigan potash mine east of Saskatoon for four weeks beginning in mid-September. The underground Lanigan mine can produce roughly 3.3 million tonnes per year.

PotashCorp is the world’s largest fertilizer company by capacity and Saskatchewan has the world’s largest deposits of potash, a valuable mineral mainly used in fertilizer.

— With files from CJWW