The world’s top two fertilizer makers have emerged from a tough crop-planting season in the U.S. very differently: one bruised and the other relatively unscathed.
World No. 2 crop-nutrient maker Mosaic Co. reported adjusted earnings that missed analyst estimates for the second quarter, during which the U.S. Midwest was in the grip of the wettest 12 months on record that kept farmers away from fields. The Minnesota-based company was hurt by falling sales volumes and weak margins for phosphate, which is used in nutrients that help plants grow.
The firm also reduced its full-year forecast, and analysts say it may have to cut its view again. Shares of the company slumped as much as 13%, the most in six years. The stock has declined 29% this year.
Mosaic’s results stand in contrast to Nutrien Ltd.ーthe top producerーwhich reported earnings and revenue that beat analyst estimates in the quarter. The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based company was aided by higher prices for potash, which forms the basis of a different class of crop fertilizers.
New York shares of Nutrien, which have risen about 9% this year, swung between gains and losses on Tuesday. At 10:31 a.m., they were down 1.7%. The company was able to ship its potash nutrient to the U.S. Midwest from Saskatchewan in Canada during the second quarter, helping its results.
Mosaic’s phosphate-based product, meanwhile, was stuck in the flooded Mississippi River on its way to the Midwest due to the unrelenting rains in the U.S.
“As a result of weak spring demand and a high level of imports trapped in the lower Mississippi River, market prices remained under pressure and the seasonal price improvement we typically see in the second quarter did not materialize,” Mosaic Chief Financial Officer Clint Freeland said during an investor call.
Diverging prices of the two fertilizers also help explain the companies’ differing fortunes. Phosphate has declined by $107 a ton from 2018’s peak in October on reduced fall and spring demand due to wet weather and higher-than-expected imports in the season, Bloomberg Intelligence estimated last month, adding that it could remain under pressure because of new capacity in the second half.
At the same time, potash prices last month were $15 a ton higher than a year earlier and $10 a ton above the seasonal five-year price, according to Bloomberg Intelligence, which said strong global demand and a slow ramp-up of new capacity supports a positive outlook.
While Mosaic announced in June the permanent closure of its Plant City phosphates facility, Nutrien said last month that it plans $1 billion in investments in Brazil. It will compete in the Latin American nation with Mosaic and Norway’s Yara International ASA, two companies that INTL FCStone Inc. estimates account for 46% of total sales in that market.
By Denitsa Tsekova and Ashley Robinson