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The Wall Street Greek blog is the sexy & syndicated financial securities markets publication of former Senior Equity Analyst Markos N. Kaminis. Our stock market blog reaches reputable publishers & private networks and is an unbiased, independent Wall Street research resource on the economy, stocks, gold & currency, energy & oil, real estate and more. Wall Street & Greece should be as honest, dependable and passionate as The Greek.

Seeking Alpha

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Mosaic Earnings Should Prove Interesting

Mosaic Corp.Mosaic (NYSE: MOS) will report earnings after the close of trading Wednesday, and the report portends to be interesting. Furthermore, the forward outlook is likely to be confused by a confluence of market factors contending against one another and the company.

agriculture analystOur founder earned clients a 23% average annual return over five years as a stock analyst on Wall Street. "The Greek" has written for institutional newsletters, Businessweek, Real Money, Seeking Alpha and others, while also appearing across TV and radio. While writing for Wall Street Greek, Mr. Kaminis presciently warned of the financial crisis.

Mosaic Study

When Mosaic reports its results at the close Wednesday, both its quarterly results and forward outlook may confound investors. The stock already took a hit on its announcement that it would cut its output by as much as 250,000 metric tons through the first quarter of 2012. That decline capped off a poor showing for 2011, with MOS shares handing shareholders a 34% loss in value, after adjustment for dividends. However, since the warning, the shares have recovered, closing Tuesday 4.3% higher. So it would appear that capital allocation and technical factors would like to support the shares if the fundamentals will hold up.

Mosaic President and CEO, Jim Prokopanko, stated within the company’s announcement that "Isolated phosphate market spot prices have become disconnected with the underlying agricultural fundamentals. As dealers and distributors focus on the macroeconomic uncertainty and delay purchases for the North American Spring Season, near term supply of phosphate barges on the Mississippi River has exceeded near-term demand. The current spot prices in this market do not reflect our outlook for the business, nor do we think they are sustainable. In response, we have decided to cut planned production by 250,000 tonnes over the next three months."

My concern is that the production cut was driven by pricing that has been short of the company’s forecasts. It’s clear to me that Mosaic has offered investors insight into the quarter it will report on Wednesday evening and/or the guidance it will provide for the forward quarter. If pricing has been short of forecasts, then Mosaic’s profit margins should also fall short and its earnings might miss the analysts’ consensus view as well. However, Mosaic did not offer new earnings guidance alongside this production warning, stating that its results would fall within its guidance range. That said, there remains risk the company might miss Wall Street’s expectation, unless they have been adjusted.

Company’s management seems to me to be engaged in a dangerous game, splitting hairs on a timeline, managing economic value it expects to create no matter, just at a later date. But in a competitive environment, this may be a game best not played. That issue is debatable, given the price parallel movement in the shares of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan (NYSE: POT) around the Mosaic announcement. It seems the Mosaic team expects to garner the same sales it expected before announcing the production cut, but at prices it sees worthy.

It’s my view that the uncertainty introduced into the equation is not supportive of near-term stock price revival, though if management does come through and preserve and create economic value as it plans, it would later benefit. As a result of the uncertainty increase, and the technical and capital allocation factors that seem in opposition of the fundamental question, I would not enter into a new position heading into this earnings report despite my general favor of the agriculture sector.

This article should interest investors in agricultural plays Mosaic (NYSE: MOS), Monsanto (NYSE: MON), Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan (NYSE: POT), Intrepid Potash Inc. (NYSE: IPI), Deere (NYSE: DE), Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT) and others.

Please see our disclosures at the Wall Street Greek website and author bio pages found there. This article and website in no way offers or represents financial or investment advice. Information is provided for entertainment purposes only.

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