K+S to sell Americas salt business to slash debt

Opened in 2017, Bethune is the first greenfield potash mine in Canada’s Saskatchewan province in more than 40 years. (Image courtesy of K+S Potash Canada.)

German fertilizer producer K+S AG (ETR, FRA: SDF) said on Wednesday it was on track to sell its salt business in North and South America by the end of the year, a move that seeks to slash debt and allow the company to focus on potash fertilizer products.

The sale of Morton Salt comes a decade after K+S acquired it for $1.7 billion. It was triggered by a drop in potash prices, which undermined the debt-financing of the company’s new potash mine in Canada — Bethune. 

Since K+S will only complete the sale and receive payment after 2021, it has applied for an additional state-secured credit line

K+S, the world’s largest salt producer, expects to complete the transaction and receive payment after 2021. That’s why is also implementing other measures to reduce debt, which should strengthen its balance sheet by more than 2 billion euros ($2.3 billion) by that time, Chief Executive Burkhard Lohr said.

The company had to slash production in 2019 in response to weak demand for potash, following the lead of rivals such as Nutrien (TSX:NTR).

In 2015, K+S fended off a 7.9 billion euro takeover bid from Nutrien, at the time called Potash Corp of Saskatchewan, of 41 euros per share.

Potash stockpiles are at a record high, which means it will be months before demand for fresh supply picks up, CRU senior potash analyst, Humphrey Knight, told MINING.COM.

As a result, spot prices are expected to remain subdued until late 2020.