The Mosaic Co. picked up the pace last quarter, thanks mainly to higher sales volumes in its major businesses.
The global fertilizer company based in Plymouth said Tuesday that its net sales during the quarter were $1.75 billion, up from $1.67 billion during the same period last year, with higher sales volumes offsetting lower phosphates realized prices.
"Mosaic generated improving results during the second quarter as global demand for potash and phosphates remained strong," said President and Chief Executive Joc O'Rourke.
The company reported net earnings of $97.3 million, or 28 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $10.2 million, or 3 cents per share, a year earlier. The latest earnings were higher than the 23 cents per share expected by analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.
Also helping the company was China, where the phosphate industry has been restructuring and is expected to export fewer tons of phosphates this year, compared with 2016. Prompting the changes are Chinese concerns about air and water pollution and profit levels from some of its older and inefficient production facilities that need to be shut down and rebuilt.
Mosaic is one of the world's largest fertilizer companies, mining potash and phosphate and processing those minerals into crop nutrients. Its largest potash operations are in Saskatchewan; its biggest phosphate mines are in south-central Florida.
In the past few years, prices have been at multiyear lows as farmers reduced fertilizer use and other expenses in response to low crop prices and a weak farm economy.
O'Rourke said in a call with analysts that a good portion of revenue declines in recent years have been offset by cost reductions and declining prices for raw materials and that the market is improving gradually.
The company said it sold 8.3 percent more diammonium phosphate and 10 percent more potash in the second quarter, compared with the same period in 2016.
Analyst Christopher Muir of CFRA Research said he continues to rate Mosaic shares in the "buy" category. In a research note, Muir said he sees the company improving on potash costs with completion of K3, a large potash mine in Saskatchewan, combined with lower Chinese phosphate exports expected later this year.
O'Rourke said the company is also making good progress in completing the transaction to acquire Vale Fertilizantes, the fertilizer unit of Brazilian company Vale SA. Mosaic agreed to purchase the business last December for about $2.5 billion to strengthen its presence in South America. "Upon closing the acquisition, we will add high-quality, low-cost assets," O'Rourke said, "and we expect to have a significantly amplified presence in the extremely promising Brazilian agricultural market."
Despite the company's improved performance, share value did not turn around, and Mosaic stock traded down 5.2 percent, or $1.25, to close Tuesday at $22.89.