Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. slashed its earnings guidance and reduced capital spending plans on Thursday as nutrient prices continue to deteriorate.
The potash market has been under pressure due to ample supply, heightened competition among producers, weak demand in India and the deferral of long-awaited sales contracts with China. Prices have dropped to multi-year lows.
Analysts warned in recent weeks that Potash Corp. may lower its guidance because of the weak market, so the Saskatoon-based company’s move on Thursday did not come as a huge surprise. Potash Corp. said it now expects full-year earnings of US60 cents to US80 cents a share, well below its prior guidance of US90 cents to US$1.20.
Potash Corp. also reported weaker-than-expected first quarter earnings of US$75 million, or US9 cents a share. Earnings were US15 cents a share after stripping out one-time items, which is a penny below the average analyst estimate.
“Lower prices for all nutrients weighed on our performance for the quarter and contributed to a more subdued outlook for the year,” chief executive Jochen Tilk said in a statement.
Potash Corp. shuttered its New Brunswick operation this year and curtailed production in Saskatchewan in response to the weak market conditions. And on Thursday, it announced an additional US$100 million of capital spending cuts in 2016. Tilk promised the company would continue to be “proactive and prudent” in its actions.
Importantly, he noted that spot fertilizer markets appear to have finally stabilized in the last few weeks, and customer sentiment is improving. “We see better conditions for the remainder of 2016, but recognize that the timing and strength of a recovery is still unfolding,” he said.
The company’s realized potash selling price in the quarter was a meagre US$178 per tonne. That was far below the realized price of US$284 in the same quarter a year ago. Nitrogen and phosphate prices were down as well, but not as severely.
Despite the weak market, Potash Corp. still expects global potash shipments of between 59 and 61 million tonnes this year, which would be a near-record level. The company itself expects to ship 8.3 to 8.8 million tonnes, compared to its prior guidance of 8.3 to 9.1 million.
“We expect supportive crop economics and agronomic need to support strong potash consumption through the remainder of the year,” Potash Corp. said.