PotashCorp, Canpotex optimistic, despite potash price drop – by Bruce Johnstone (Regina Leader-Post – December 6, 2015)


With last week’s meeting of OPEC in Vienna, market watchers are watching Saudi Arabia — OPEC’s leader and one of the world’s largest producers of oil — to see if oil prices continue to fall.

But another commodity with importance to Saskatchewan has also seen some price slippage recently — potash. While not as sharp as oil’s plunge, potash prices have fallen US$15 per tonne to US$282 per tonne from US$297 since March.

Some commentators suggest that Canpotex, the offshore marketing agency for Saskatchewan’s three major potash producers, is like the OPEC of potash and PotashCorp its Saudi Arabia.

While the leaders of those two organizations would reject that comparison, there’s no question that PotashCorp and Canpotex wield considerable influence in global potash markets. And there’s no doubt that both companies have their fingers on the pulse of the global potash industry.

The Regina Leader-Post recently interviewed the president and CEO of PotashCorp, Jochen Tilk, and the new CEO of Canpotex, Ken Seitz, about the state of the potash industry in Saskatchewan and the world. Both leaders, while relatively new to their jobs, are optimistic about the long-term prospects for the industry, but admit there’s some short-term turbulence to get through.

Tilk, who took over the top job at PotashCorp in 2014, has had an eventful stint as president and CEO, having taken a run at K+S, Europe’s largest potash company, with an unsolicited $10-billion bid in June, only to be rebuffed by the German company in August. Earlier in 2015, in the March budget, PotashCorp got blindsided by a big tax hit that could chop $75 million to $100 million off the Saskatoon-based company’s 2015 pretax earnings.

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