Higher fertilizer prices helped the Mosaic Co. increase net sales by 12 percent in its fourth quarter, although net income dropped because of the changes in U.S. tax legislation.

The global fertilizer company based in Plymouth said Tuesday that its net sales during the quarter were $2.1 billion, up from $1.9 billion during the same period last year.

The company reported a net loss of $431 million, or $1.23 per share, for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with a profit of $12 million, or 3 cents per share, a year earlier. O'Rourke said the earnings were hurt by a $458 million noncash charge related to the changes in the U.S. corporate tax rates.

Adjusted earnings per share during the fourth quarter were 34 cents per share, about 7 cents above the consensus estimate of analysts.

Mosaic is one of the world's largest fertilizer companies, mining potash and phosphate and processing those minerals into crop nutrients.

Early last month, the company announced that it had completed its acquisition of Vale Fertilizantes, the fertilizer unit of Brazilian company Vale SA. Mosaic agreed to purchase the business in Dec. 2016 for about $2.5 billion to strengthen its presence in South America.

"Now that the Vale Fertilizantes acquisition is closed, our focus shifts to delivering the targeted $275 million of synergies and operational improvements from the combined Brazil businesses," CEO Joc O'Rourke said.

He said that Mosaic's improved sales figures occurred across its businesses.

Average phosphate prices in the fourth quarter reached $348 per ton, up from $317 per ton a year earlier. Total sales volumes for the period were 2.5 million tons, flat with last year.

The potash segment reported average selling prices of $188 per ton, compared to $169 per ton during the same period last year. Its total sales volumes were 2.2 million tons, up from 2 million tons last year.

In a research note, analyst Christopher Muir of CFRA Research noted the higher prices and lifted his 12-month price target for Mosaic from $26 to $30 per share, keeping his opinion at a "buy."

Mosaic stock traded up about 5.2 percent, or $1.33, to close Tuesday at $26.76.

Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388