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Noah Zivitz

Managing Editor, BNN Bloomberg

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Nutrien Ltd. shares rallied on Thursday, helping lift the S&P/TSX Composite Index to a new all-time high, after the fertilizer giant announced it’s planning to boost production to fill some of the supply void caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The Saskatoon-based company announced late Wednesday that it's now aiming for approximately 15 million tonnes of potash output this year. When it reported fourth-quarter results on Feb. 16, it said it was targeting 13.7 million to 14.3 million tonnes of potash sales in 2022.

"Nutrien is responding to this period of unprecedented market uncertainty by safely expanding potash production to help provide our customers with the crop inputs they need. We continue to closely monitor market conditions and will evolve our long-term plans to ensure we utilize our assets in a safe and sustainable manner that benefits all our stakeholders," said Ken Seitz, the company's interim president and chief executive, who moved into those roles after the abrupt exit of Mayo Schmidt in January.

The company stated it anticipates a small increase in capital expenditures this year, and will hire an unspecified number of additional workers for its potash mines in Saskatchewan.

Russia's attack on Ukraine has roiled the global fertilizer industry. Belarus, an ally of Moscow, is second-only to Canada in potash reserves, according to the federal government. Russia and Belarus rank second and third, respectively, to Canada in global potash production.

Nutrien shares went on a tear in the aftermath of the invasion as investors weighed the risk of supply disruptions. From Feb. 24, when the invasion started, to March 10, Nutrien's common shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange surged almost 36 per cent. The stock had trailed off since then before it jumped four per cent on Thursday, and was the third-most influential gainer on the TSX as the index closed at a record high.

Among analysts tracked by Bloomberg, 18 say Nutrien is a buy, four say it's a hold, and one has a sell recommendation. The 12-month consensus price target is $123.11 per share, implying 0.7 per cent potential downside from Thursday’s close.

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