Hang On to This Stock

If you've been reading my articles regularly, just a mention of this company's name will give you an idea of what could have boosted its third-quarter revenues. It's the fertilizer price game once again.

Not surprisingly, higher nutrient prices drove Intrepid Potash's (NYSE: IPI  ) revenues up. But that's not all. I find it hard to ignore Intrepid's aggressive expansionary moves. Will these moves or general industry conditions play a bigger role in nourishing Intrepid's future? Let's find out.

The price push
The price hikes Intrepid had announced in the last few quarters paid off. With average net realized sales price for potash surging to $489 per ton as compared to $343 per ton last year, Intrepid's sales jumped 25% from the year-ago period to $114 million.

But while prices went up, sales volumes for nutrient potash, which makes up 87% of Intrepid's total sales, slipped by 14% to 190,000 tons. Thankfully, this fall was not on account of lower production or the like. Intrepid had to withhold some of its shipments to customers because of weather interruptions in areas like Texas and along the Missouri River, thereby resulting in lower recorded revenues.

Luckily for Intrepid, though sales volumes of potash fell, langbeinite (a potassium-based mineral) made up for it. Its higher prices as well as volumes helped push Intrepid's total revenue up. As a result, Intrepid's net income surged to 25.5 million from $11.7 million a year ago.

Ramping up fast
Intrepid is doing a lot of things to ramp up production. In the last quarter, production of both of the nutrients was up year over year. Potash production increased 4% while langbeinite production rose around 9%.

The company is putting in more money in various processes to increase its capacity and production. For instance, it is constructing new plants to raise the granulation capacity for both the nutrients. Intrepid feels its ability to granulate all of its langbeinite production will enable it to capture additional opportunities in the market.

The company also has a langbeinite recovery improvement project under way that includes new separation and granulation plants.

Construction of a new compaction plant to replace its current compaction facility at its North plant in Mexico is also in the pipeline. With this, Intrepid aims at increasing the plant capacity to handle the anticipated higher production needs that should flow in from Intrepid's mining expansions and projects under way.

It seems Intrepid is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to growing its business. The company expects its total capital investment for 2011 to be at the top end of its estimate -- somewhere around $155 million.

High crop prices are good for fertilizer makers
The agricultural sector is witnessing one of its best times ever, and there's nothing surprising about the higher nutrient prices. Surging crop prices have pushed up farming activity globally, thereby raising demand for fertilizers and nutrients. Most fertilizer and chemical companies are thus hitting pay dirt from higher prices.

Potash king PotashCorp (NYSE: POT  ) , for instance, saw prices of all three of the nutrients it deals in shoot up, driving its third-quarter revenue up by an astounding 47% to $2.3 billion. A solid jump in nutrient prices was also the reason behind CVR Partners' (NYSE: UAN  ) superb 66.4% growth in its third-quarter top line. Similarly, Mosaic's (NYSE: MOS  ) first-quarter revenues shot up by 41% to $3.1 billion as prices of nutrients like potash reached for the skies.

The best part is this price benefit should linger on for some more time. PotashCorp expects record potash shipments next year. This should work in the industry's favor, especially for players like Intrepid.

The Foolish bottom line
Intrepid luckily belongs to an industry that is enjoying one of its best booms ever. I feel the company's great expansion moves and the encouraging industry conditions should pave the way for a fertile future.

I suggest you keep a close watch on Intrepid's moves. To stay updated on all its news and analysis, add it to your stock watchlist, our free and personalized stock-tracking service.

Fool contributor Neha Chamaria does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this article. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On November 18, 2011, at 2:07 AM, strelna wrote:

    Curious that the writer does not refer to the fact that fertiliser stocks have been falling for weeks, presumably because of a worldwide glut of some cereals.

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