Potash Corporation (NYSE:POT) is set to release its second-quarter earnings on July 28, but this report will contain a lot more than just revenue and profit numbers. Given the recent developments in the potash industry, I wouldn't be surprised if PotashCorp lowers its full-year guidance yet again. More importantly, it'll be interesting to hear management's viewpoint about some of the rumors and speculations that are currently swirling around the marketplace, including PotashCorp's possible takeover. Keeping that in mind, here are the three most significant updates that you simply cannot miss in PotashCorp's upcoming earnings report.
Canpotex's stand on contracts with China and India
PotashCorp's sales depend largely on demand from China and India -- the top two potash-consuming nations in the world. Absence of contracts from these nations was the major reason PotashCorp lowered its full-year earnings guidance in the first quarter to $0.60-$0.80 per share from $0.90-$1.2 a share.
Unfortunately, PotashCorp's hopes to crack a deal during the second quarter have been dashed even as rivals like Belaruskali recently signed contracts with both India and China. Canpotex -- the offshore potash marketing group comprising PotashCorp, Agrium, and Mosaic (NYSE:MOS) -- is yet to sign any. The only probable reason could be Canpotex's stand to not sell potash at the decade-low prices that other producers have agreed upon. However, that could cost Canpotex crucial market share if sales volumes don't pick up soon.
So how does PotashCorp intend to boost revenues in such a grim situation? That's an answer investors need to look for in the company's upcoming earnings call. While analysts are expecting PotashCorp's second-quarter sales to drop more almost 30% and its earnings per share to come in at only $0.19 per share compared to $0.50 a year ago, the numbers could look worse.
Is a merger or a sale in the pipeline?
Last month, the rumor mills started spinning with reports of PotashCorp having appointed an investment banker after "possibly receiving an unsolicited takeover proposal." Analysts are even counting BHP Billiton, Mosaic, and Agrium among possible contenders.
Of course, I'd be surprised if PotashCorp management comes out this week and says the company's up for sale. However, I will be tuned into the upcoming earnings call to know the company's plans, especially after its recently failed multi-billion dollar bid for Germany-based K+S. With peer Mosaic reportedly eyeing Vale SA's (NYSE:VALE) fertilizer business to expand its global footprint, PotashCorp may have to up its ante to remain at the forefront in the industry in these challenging yet competitive times.
PotashCorp's take on the Belarus news
Perhaps the biggest news to hit potash headlines last month was Belarus' revelation its interest in reuniting with Uralkali, three years after the Belaruskali-Uralkali cartel split that sent global potash prices and producers' profits tumbling. The split ended up giving potash consumers greater bargaining power, which is why countries like China and India can command such low potash prices today.
Needless to say, a reunion will act as a balm for potash companies through better control over supply and prices. PotashCorp management may not directly comment on the speculation, but anything it says on a probable alliance could provide valuable hints. More importantly, whether PotashCorp itself is looking at partnerships to improve the demand and supply situation in the industry will be an update worth watching for in its upcoming earnings call.