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Having gone public very recently, all eyes were on Rentech Nitrogen Partner's (NYSE: RNF ) first-quarter results to get a better idea of where its business is heading. Thankfully, the nitrogen fertilizer maker treated the Street to some great numbers.
But there's more to Rentech than just a good quarter.
Rentech being a pure nitrogen play is proving to be a big advantage. From a business standpoint, nitrogen has performed better than other nutrients such as potash or phosphate. Its demand has risen at a much faster pace than others during the past two decades. If that's not enough, fertilizer companies' recent results have also proved how firms having nitrogen-centric businesses are ranked a notch above those dealing in potash or phosphate.
Take CF Industries (NYSE: CF ) , for instance. The nitrogen king's top line hit record first-quarter highs, backed by a 37% jump in its nitrogen division sales. In contrast, PotashCorp's (NYSE: POT ) first-quarter revenue slumped 21%, led by a 50% dip in potash volumes. Rentech, however, had a solid first quarter, with revenue surging 61% as both demand and prices for nutrients remained firm. And the good news is that things are likely to remain positive in the near future, thanks to a great start to the U.S. planting season.
Unusually warm weather in the U.S. in March have encouraged farmers to start planting early, pushing up demand for nutrients. With the recent rapid pace of planting, corn in particular is proving to be great news for nitrogen specialists such as Rentech, as the crop consumes the largest amount of nitrogen.
With several recent industry developments hinting at possible record-high corn plantations this year, Rentech could be in for a great year ahead. Not to forget the added advantage of natural gas prices touching decade lows recently. With natural gas being a key input for nitrogen fertilizers, a dip in prices is advantageous for nitrogen producers. In fact, Rentech's first-quarter gross margins climbed to 59% from 43% last year mainly because of such cost-based advantages.
An eye on the future
I also quite like Rentech's investments for the future. Some expansion projects that are underway will increase its annual ammonia and urea production capacity by 23% and 13%, respectively. While the ammonia project will take time, the urea one is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Rentech may well consider upgrading the additional urea to Urea Ammonium Nitrate -- a nutrient that's very profitable.
Not that this will be something new for the company. Rentech upgraded nearly 44% of ammonia in its first quarter. Upgradation makes sense, particularly when other companies are doing it, too. Both CF and CVR Partners (NYSE: UAN ) are investing heavily on UAN expansions and have started converting large amounts of ammonia to UAN lately. CVR, for instance, upgraded 72% of it during its first quarter.
The Foolish bottom line
What is also attractive about Rentech is its mind-boggling dividend yield of 18.80%, which is way above peer Terra Nitrogen's (NYSE: TNH ) yield of 7.3%. Both companies are structured in the form of master limited partnerships.
A good quarter, high yields, and an expected strong farming year bodes well for Rentech Nitrogen. I suggest you keep tracking the company by adding it to your personalized stock watchlist. Click here to add it.
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