Fertilizer giant Nutrien Ltd.'s stock was higher in midday trading Thursday after the company raised its earnings guidance, reported it was ahead of schedule on cost cuts, and said it didn't expect trade disputes to significantly disrupt its U.S. market.
The company, formed through the merger of Potash Corp. and Agrium Inc. at the start of the year, closed up $3.32 or 4.68 per cent at $74.32 on the Toronto Stock Exchange to add more than $2 billion to its market capitalization.
The climb comes after Nutrien said it had upwardly revised its adjusted earnings guidance to between $2.40 and $2.70 per share, up from $2.20 to $2.60 per share, as it increased sales expectations for key products despite trade and tariff headwinds.
"While it is difficult to predict the magnitude and duration of these potential trade restrictions, we believe it is unlikely there will be a long-term impact on North American agriculture," said company CEO Chuck Magro on an earnings call Thursday.
The Trump administration's imposition of tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese goods has prompted the country to retaliate with equal tariffs on U.S. goods including soybeans, pushing down prices for the crop.
Farmers could change their crop mix for next season depending on where trade disputes stand post-harvest, but Nutrien doesn't expect them to cut back on overall acres planted, said Magro.
"If you step back and you look at the U.S. farmer, they are some of the lowest cost, most efficient producers of food in the world, so the acres are going to get planted."
The company said a shift to more corn could be beneficial, as on average it generates about twice the margin versus soy, but that overall it hopes, along with farmers, for an easing of trade tensions.
"Farmers will be watching crop prices and trade developments closely, particularly post-harvest, and are likely to become more concerned if there is not a resolution on the trade front by that time," said Magro.
Trade disputes have not had a major effect on the company's operations so far, as increased demand for key nutrients has helped prices and have helped the company return second-quarter net earnings of US$741 million for the three months ending June 30 from continuing operations, for diluted net earnings of $1.17 per share.
Adjusted net earnings per share were $1.48, higher than the $1.38 expected by analysts according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.
The company also said in its second quarter results released after market close Wednesday it had achieved US$246 million in synergies as of the end of June, up from the US$150 million it said it had achieved as of March.
The company said it now expects to achieve cost savings of US$350 million by the end of the year, up from the US$250 million it initially estimated. The company is targeting ongoing cost savings of US$500 million by the end of next year.
Nutrien furthered its cost-cutting and efficiency push the same day with announced plans to cut 30 staff and 50 hourly positions from its Vanscoy potash operation in Saskatchewan in the fall.
Magro said the job cuts come after months of planning as operations from the two companies are further integrated. He said the cuts will still allow the company to ramp up production if needed and better balance production between operations.
"It really does allow us to optimize our network, (consisting of) the six mines in Saskatchewan, and of course reduce some costs."
The company said it has provided opportunities throughout the year for Vanscoy employees to transition to other roles, and will provide severance packages and transition programs for affected employees.
The Vanscoy potash mine and processing plant will have about 585 employees following the latest cuts.
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