Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan (TSX, NYSE:POT), the world’s biggest fertilizer producer by market value, reported Thursday better-than-expected fourth quarter results as it sold record potash volumes and benefited from higher nitrogen and phosphate prices.
Profit jumped 77% year-over-year to US$407 million in the period, or 49 cents a share as the company sold 2.5 million metric tons of potash. This allowed the miner to hike its quarterly dividend 9% to 38 cents per share.
“As we look ahead, we see a supportive market environment – most notably in potash,” chief executive Jochen Tilk said in a statement. “We are ready to respond should demand for this nutrient prove stronger than expected and, as we balance operational flexibility with efficiencies.”
Despite the positive results, the company is cautious on its forecast for the year — it said it expects global potash sales volumes to drop from 2014’s record level of more than 61 million tonnes due to weaker economic growth in regions outside the U.S.
The Saskatoon-based miner seems to be learning to live with the low potash prices, but has had to axe jobs and costs. Now the company is estimating the first quarter’s profit will be about the same in a range from 45 to 55 cents per share and that 2015 earnings will be higher than last year’s at between $1.90 to $2.20 per common share.
Prices for the fertilizer have been recovering from the plunge that followed Uralkali’s (LON:URALL) decision in 2013 that killed the Russian-Belarus potash cartel. The nutrient stayed just above $280 per tonne in the fourth quarter compared with the previous year when buyers delayed making purchases in hopes the price would fall further.