Mosaic doubles dividend as profit beats estimates

  • Article by: MIKE HUGHLETT MHUGHLETT@STARTRIBUNE.COM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 17, 2012 - 9:01 PM

Earnings were down 22 percent from a year ago but still beat expectations as global fertilizer sales remained strong.

Mosaic Co. doubled its dividend Tuesday and beat Wall Street profit estimates for its fourth quarter, a performance aided by an early start to the North American growing season and strong fertilizer demand in Latin America.

Plymouth-based Mosaic, one of the world's largest fertilizer producers, reported a profit of $507 million, or $1.19 per share, in its fourth quarter ended May 31. The company's stock responded by climbing $2.84, or 5 percent, closing at $58.21.

While earnings were down 22 percent over a year ago, they topped by 4 cents the per-share profit estimates of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. The company's net sales of $2.8 billion were roughly flat but above the $2.6 billion forecast by stock analysts.

Mosaic's president and CEO, Jim Prokopanko, called the results solid given global uncertainties and the tight market for phosphate-based fertilizer. "External factors created some challenges for us and the rest of the industry," Prokopanko told analysts Tuesday.

Prokopanko said he doesn't expect the current severe drought in the U.S. Corn Belt to significantly depress fertilizer shipments next year.

The company continues to generate significant cash and announced that it's upping its annual dividend from 50 cents to $1 per share. The dividend has been raised 400 percent in the past year.

Mosaic produces fertilizer based on phosphate mined in Florida and potash mined primarily in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.

Sales in the phosphate business were $1.8 billion in the fourth quarter, down 5 percent compared to a year ago due to a 14 percent decline in average prices of finished fertilizer. Lower phosphate pricing was the key driver behind the company's fourth quarter profit decline.

In Mosaic's potash segment, though, sales of $1 billion were up 6 percent during the fourth quarter, as average prices rose 13 percent.

For the year, Mosaic's profits dropped 23 percent to $1.9 billion, or $4.42 per share, although sales rose 12 percent to $11.1 billion.

Staff writer Jennifer Bjorhus contributed to this report. Mike Hughlett• 612-673-7003

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