Mosaic Company Earnings: Has Fertilizer Hit Bottom?

Mosaic (NYSE: MOS  ) will release its quarterly report on Tuesday, and investors are still reeling from the huge drop in the stock last summer after news that an important potash trade consortium between Russia and Belarus had broken up. Yet as much as rival PotashCorp (NYSE: POT  ) dropped due to the news, Mosaic has moved forward pursuing different initiatives, and its purchase of CF Industries' (NYSE: CF  ) phosphate business should help Mosaic be even less dependent on potash than it has in the past.

Many investors make the mistake of thinking that just because Mosaic is part of a major Canadian marketing group with PotashCorp and Agrium (NYSE: AGU  ) that helps market potash to the rest of the world, it must rely on potash-based fertilizers entirely. Yet even though Mosaic has historically gotten the bulk of its operating profits from potash, its phosphate business actually brought in more revenue even before its acquisition of CF's phosphate assets. Will emphasizing phosphates prove to be the right move for Mosaic? Let's take an early look at what's been happening with Mosaic over the past quarter and what we're likely to see in its report.


Source: Mosaic.

Stats on Mosaic

Analyst EPS Estimate

$0.42

Change From Year-Ago EPS

(60%)

Revenue Estimate

$1.86 billion

Change From Year-Ago Revenue

(27%)

Earnings Beats in Past 4 Quarters

2

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Some adjustments reflect fiscal-year change.

What's in store for Mosaic earnings this quarter?
In recent months, analysts have had mixed views on Mosaic earnings. They've cut their fourth-quarter projections by more than a nickel per share, but they've raised their full-year 2014 estimates slightly. The stock hasn't had much luck regaining lost ground, falling another 1% since early November.

Mosaic's third-quarter earnings report reflected the huge problems that the fertilizer industry is seeing right now. Revenue dropped 28%, leading to a 70% plunge in net income. As expected, potash was the big culprit, with volumes falling well below the company's own guidance. But even though phosphate prices and sales volumes were more in line with what Mosaic had foreseen, the segment's revenue was still down 18% from the year-ago quarter. At least for potash, those results are likely to repeat this quarter, as PotashCorp recently reported big drops in its potash prices for its fourth quarter.

Yet the opportunity for Mosaic to capitalize on the booming agricultural industry remains intact. CEO Jim Prokopanko said recently that despite the Uralkali-Belaruskali breakup that sent potash prices plunging, the long-term fundamentals for rising fertilizer demand aren't likely to change anytime in the near future. With China having renewed an agreement with Canpotex, the trade group of which Mosaic, PotashCorp, and Agrium are part, Mosaic will keep seeing huge demand for its fertilizer products.

One big question for Mosaic is how rising natural-gas prices could affect its business. In its deal with CF, Mosaic tied its price for obtaining ammonia to domestic natural-gas prices. With nat-gas costs soaring recently due to a worse than expected winter, Mosaic could see a short-run hit to profits from its pricing arrangement.

In the Mosaic earnings report, watch to see how the company positions itself between phosphate and potash. With profits riding on potash, look for signs that the potential reconciliation between Uralkali and Belaruskali could have on the industry going forward and on Mosaic in particular.

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