Friday, September 05, 2008

Potash (NYSE:POT): Very positive Fertilizer call from Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley is out with a very positive Fertilizer call saying they think the business model meltdown implied in fertilizer equities’ recent ~35% decline will prove unfounded. Firm believes that peak earnings are likely to come in 2011 (rather than in 2008, as implied by the equity market) and be substantially higher than the market discounts. Finally, they expect profits ultimately to trough above 2008 levels.

Fertilizer prices will stay higher for longer: i) A global economic slowdown is unlikely to affect fertilizer demand; ii) US farmers are still earning a ~60% ROIC on fertilizer purchases and are thus unlikely to reduce fertilizer application; iii) Emerging market farmers are very low on the yield response curve (i.e., increased application pays for itself); iv) NPK prices have yet to catch up to commodity prices (i.e., record US farmer profits despite higher NPK prices); and v) They believe capacity increases will simply meet underlying demand rather than flood the market and force lower prices.

Valuation extremely compelling: 2009e EV/EBITDA of 2-5x; FCF yields of 10% to 20%. Minimal balance sheet leverage (in some cases none) should allow for substantial share repurchases and dividend payments.

Potash (POT, $280) has the most leverage to potash, the nutrient with the greatest pricing power and barriers to entry. Mosaic (MOS, $155) is best positioned in phosphate and has not been properly credited for its potash assets. Agrium (AGU, $135) has exposure to all nutrients and a growing retail business. Monsanto (MON, $170 - NOT a fertilizer company) remains Morgan Stanley's top pick in Agriculture as they believe it is the best-positioned company in the value chain.

Notablecalls: We saw some bottoming action in several Fert names late yesterday, which may indicate the liquidation sellers are at least taking a break. Plus, we have CSFB out today upgrading MON.

Think the sector could be in for a bounce.

1 comment:

traussnig said...

You do a very good job at notable calls to round up interesting comments on actively traded stocks.
On the fertilizers i observe that brokers put up one buy recommendation after the other at falling prices.Short term bounces are always possible but look at historic price/book ratios for the industry and the global economic slowdown and the price rise over the last 5 years and you still have a lot of downside risk.