PotashCorp sales, profit slip in fourth quarter, miss analyst estimates

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SASKATOON - Potash Corp. (TSX:POT) says its fourth-quarter profit fell to $421 million, or 48 cents per share — missing analyst estimates by nine cents a share.

The result includes a $41-million charge related to the settlement of antitrust claims in the United States as well as substantially lower revenue as customers delayed their buying decisions amid economic uncertainty.

The fourth-quarter profit was down from $683 million, or 78 per cents per diluted share of net earnings, in the same three-month period a year earlier.

Revenue for the quarter was $1.64 billion, down $1.86 billion a year earlier, and also below analyst estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters.

The consensus estimate was for 57 cents per share of net income and $1.8 billion of revenue in the three-month period ended Dec. 31.

The Saskatoon-based potash producer says its full-year earnings for 2012 were $1.2 billion, or $2.37 per share. That included a $341-million writedown related to its investment in Sinofert Holdings Ltd. in China, an item recorded in the second quarter.

The 2012 profit was down substantially from 2011, when PotashCorp's net income was $3.1 billion or $3.51 per share.

The company says its offshore investments in Jordan, Israel and Chile contributed $94 million to earnings in the fourth quarter of 2012. For the full year, contributions from these investments — and a dividend from Sinofert — reached a record $412 million.

Potash Corp. says the typical late-season slowdown in global potash demand was more pronounced in the quarter as buyers awaited clarity on their contracts before committing to new supplies. Shipments to offshore markets declined 43 per cent in the quarter from the same period last year. In contrast, quarterly domestic shipments outpaced those of the previous year by 38 per cent.

"Our fourth-quarter results were adversely affected by weaker performance in all three nutrients as global fertilizer markets paused in the absence of significant immediate needs and amid lack of direction, particularly in phosphate and potash," said PotashCorp president and CEO Bill Doyle.

"Despite these temporary challenges, we operated with a consistent approach — temporarily slowing potash production and leveraging our diversified product mix in our other nutrients — to best position our company for the expected rebound in fertilizer demand in 2013."

Organizations: PotashCorp, TSX, Sinofert Holdings

Geographic location: SASKATOON, United States, China Jordan Israel Chile

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