Fertiglobe, the world’s largest seaborne exporter of urea and ammonia, has reported a drop in its third-quarter net profit amid a slump in fertiliser demand, although it expects to benefit from a rise in nitrogen prices in the fourth quarter.
Net profit attributable to owners of the company for the three months to the end of September stood at $39.5 million, compared with $291.6 million in the same period a year ago, Fertiglobe said on Tuesday in a filing to the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, where its shares are traded.
Revenue during the third quarter also fell to $525.1 million, from $1.3 billion during the same period last year.
“We saw nitrogen prices maintain their positive momentum in the third quarter, driven by tightening markets on planned and unplanned supply disruptions, restocking demand, as well as expectations of reduced exports from China,” said Fertiglobe chief executive Ahmed El Hoshy.
“Nitrogen prices have increased significantly from their troughs in the second and third quarters, and we expect the benefits from these increases to materialise in the fourth quarter.”
Fertiglobe is looking at “organic and inorganic” opportunities to grow its business, while continuing to reduce costs, Mr El Hoshy told The National in a post-earnings interview.
“If we do buy something, [we want to] buy it at lower multiples, so that we can have an immediately accretive transaction,” Mr El Hoshy said.
“We're constantly looking for ways to leverage existing infrastructure to bring low carbon products at a good value and good return to Fertiglobe. We're not looking at greenfield [projects]; we're looking at brownfields.”
Fertiglobe, which is “on track” to achieve annual run-rate savings of $50 million by the end of 2024, can push for a higher cost-cutting target as it centralises its operations, Mr El Hoshy said.
“Egypt is a great potential area where we can reduce costs because there's been a [devaluation of the] currency there, and we are a dollar-based company, so we can really get some strong resources on an attractive basis,” he said.
The company's net profit in the first nine months of the year fell to $254.4 million, from $1.08 billion in the same period a year earlier.
Revenue during the period dropped to $1.77 billion, from $3.97 billion last year.
Fertiglobe said it approved a dividend of $275 million for the first half of 2023, which will be payable in the “next few weeks”.
The company, a joint venture between Adnoc and the Netherlands-listed OCI, produces 6.7 million tonnes of urea and ammonia annually at four units in the UAE, Egypt and Algeria, making it the largest producer of nitrogen fertilisers in the Mena region.
Nitrogen fertiliser prices are linked to the price of natural gas.
European natural gas prices, which increased after Russia invaded Ukraine last year, were trading at €44.83 ($48.02) per megawatt hour on Tuesday after rising to a high of €345 a megawatt hour last year in March following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
“The short-term outlook is further underpinned by a strong order book for ammonia and urea sales in the [fourth quarter],” Mr El Hoshy said.
“In the medium to longer term, the nitrogen outlook remains favourable, with limited incremental supply additions over the next several years, healthy farm economics and elevated energy prices raising marginal cost floors, particularly going into the winter season,” he said.