Cheap and abundant North American natural gas is fueling more than just homes and businesses. It's fueling explosive dividend growth for heavy users including fertilizer producer CF Industries (NYSE:CF). The nitrogen producer recently boosted its dividend by 150%, with further boosts likely in the future.
Natural gas is an important feedstock for nitrogen producers. As the price ebbs and flows it will have a direct impact on profits. For example, this past quarter slightly higher natural gas costs put some pressure on CF Industries' profits. The same issue hurt Terra Nitrogen (NYSE:TNH) as well as it was affected by a 10% increase in realized natural gas prices. However, longer term both companies see natural gas and being an important fuel for future dividend increases.
The reason for this is simple. As CF Industries pointed out in its most recent earnings release, "increased production of North American shale gas and the attendant natural gas prices have created a sustainable cost advantage for the company's nitrogen production." That sustainable cost advantage yields increased profitability and an increasing dividend yield for investors.
The company sees that trend continuing. Its earnings release further noted that:
Attractive North American natural gas costs continue to support CF Industries' earnings prospects. Domestic gas production has remained steady at record levels as the Marcellus shale has proven to be more prolific than gas industry forecasters originally projected, which has offset production declines elsewhere. Improved development economics resulting from drilling efficiencies and higher well productivity have provided incentives to generate greater supply at sub $4.00 levels.
Because both CF Industries and Terra Nitrogen derive a majority of revenue from nitrogen sales, the cost advantage of natural gas will be important for fueling future profit growth. However, that same cost advantage will also be enjoyed by PotashCorp (NYSE:POT) and Agrium (NYSE:AGU) as both produce nitrogen. However, because both companies are diversified and produce potash and phosphate as well, neither company will see profits fueled by natural gas to the same degree.
That said, PotashCorp's dividend has surged 950% since 2010 while Agrium recently boosted its dividend by 50%. Clearly the fertilizer stocks are fertile ground for rising dividends these days.
Income investors have a lot of options these days to add more dividends to their portfolios. While low natural gas prices are holding back dividends at some energy companies, it's fueling explosive payout increases for heavy natural gas users like fertilizer stocks. Investors could do very well by picking up a stock whose dividend is being fueled by natural gas.