PotashCorp CEO unfazed by Russian rival's exit

SASKATOON – The CEO of PotashCorp says a Russian rival’s exit from a European potash cartel is no cause for alarm.

Bill Doyle said Wednesday he doesn’t give much credence to concerns that Uralkali’s split from Belarusian Potash Company could lead to a 25 per cent drop in the price of potash.

“No one company determines the price. Supply-demand is a big, big important factor,” Doyle told an online Q&A session.

“If you ever forget about that, you’re just not paying attention to how the marketplace works.”

Furthermore, North America is PotashCorp’s (TSX:POT) biggest market and rivals have nowhere near the same reach as the Saskatoon-based company.

“With all due respect, the Russians — they don’t have any infrastructure in North America,” said Doyle.

“They bring some small amounts of material into the U.S. Gulf and put it into barges, but this is a just-in-time business, when people say they need the material yesterday.”

Doyle said logic dictates that Uralkali and BPC will mend fences sooner rather than later.

“I don’t find too many people that self-destruct intentionally. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Uralkali’s move last week sparked a major selloff in the stocks of potash producers and caused economists to warn Saskatchewan’s economy could take a big hit. The Prairie province has one of the world’s largest deposits of the mineral, and much of its tax and royalty revenues comes from mining it.

On Tuesday, credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s revised PotashCorp’s outlook to negative from stable. The company’s credit rating remains at A-.

“Uralkali is one of the world’s largest potash producers and its exit from BPC and intention to increase production volumes could fundamentally alter the potash market structure and result in intense price competition, in turn leading to lower industry-wide profitability,” said S&P credit analyst David Fisher.

“This could cause PotashCorp.’s credit metrics to weaken beyond our thresholds for the rating.”

Doyle said spats like the one between Uralkali and BPC last week have happened before — though perhaps not as publicly.

“We’ve been through many bigger battles than this. Our business is going to function as normal. Our customers are with us 100 per cent. No one is going top put this company out of business. We’re in very good shape,” he said, adding that the Uralkali move is having no impact on PotashCorp’s dividend or share buyback plans.

“I would just urge people to take a deep breath, relax and everything is going to be just fine.”