Strong Nitrogen Prices and Early Spring Application Drive Profitability
First Quarter Highlights
Record first quarter net earnings attributable to common stockholders of $368.4 million, or $5.54 per diluted share, compared to earnings of $282.0 million, or $3.91 per diluted share, in the first quarter of 2011.
Record first quarter earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of $701.5 million compared to $585.1 million in the first quarter of 2011.
Record first quarter net sales of $1.5 billion, up 30 percent from $1.2 billion in the first quarter of 2011.
Total sales volume of 3.7 million tons compared to 3.3 million tons in the first quarter of 2011.
High expected corn planting, tight nitrogen supply and favorable natural gas prices provide a positive environment for 2012.
CF Industries Holdings, Inc. today reported first quarter 2012 net earnings attributable to common stockholders of $368.4 million, or $5.54 per diluted share, compared to earnings of $282.0 million, or $3.91 per diluted share, in the first quarter of 2011. First quarter results included a non-cash $55.9 million pre-tax mark-to-market loss on natural gas derivatives, which reduced after-tax earnings per diluted share by $0.52. First quarter 2011 results included a $32.5 million pre-tax gain on the sale of four dry product warehouses, $19.9 million of accelerated amortization of loan costs related to the retirement of a bank term loan, $2.1 million in restructuring and integration costs, and a $0.7 million non-cash mark-to-market gain on natural gas derivatives.
EBITDA was $701.5 million in the first quarter of 2012, compared to $585.1 million in the first quarter of 2011.
Net sales in the first quarter were $1.5 billion, up 30 percent from $1.2 billion in the same period last year due to higher sales volume and nitrogen product prices. Total sales volume increased from 3.3 million tons in the 2011 first quarter to 3.7 million tons in 2012 largely due to higher volumes of ammonia and urea associated with the favorable late winter and early spring application conditions. Higher product prices resulted from strong early spring demand and tight inventory levels throughout the North American distribution chain.
"We are pleased with the excellent financial results our company continues to produce. Record first quarter sales and earnings were underpinned by the strong demand that emerged as the quarter progressed and by the continuation of a favorable cost environment," said Stephen R. Wilson, chairman and chief executive officer, CF Industries Holdings, Inc. "Our team took full advantage of this opportunity by executing very well."
Exceptionally mild winter and early spring weather created favorable field conditions, and pre-plant nutrient application has been well ahead of normal schedules. This early application contributed to an increase in demand for ammonia and urea as the first quarter progressed.
Nitrogen prices rose, with ammonia and urea prices moving up in March and urea ammonium nitrate (UAN) prices beginning to increase at the very end of the quarter. Phosphate pricing continued to favor export sales.
CF Industries' extensive storage and distribution network allowed it to move nitrogen products into position early in the year in anticipation of seasonal demand. The company's flexible logistics system also allowed it to take advantage of some sales opportunities outside of North America.
Nitrogen net sales totaled $1.3 billion, up 37 percent from $925.9 million in the 2011 first quarter. Gross margin was $662.1 million, up 50 percent from $442.5 million in the 2011 first quarter. The increase was due to higher sales volume and prices, and lower realized natural gas costs compared to the prior year period. Gross margin as a percent of sales was 52 percent, up from 48 percent in the year-earlier quarter.
CF Industries delivered 3.2 million tons of ammonia, urea, UAN solutions, ammonium nitrate (AN) and other nitrogen products during the first quarter of 2012 compared to 2.8 million tons in 2011.
In the first quarter of 2012, the company sold 672,000 tons of ammonia at an average price of $598 per ton, compared to 410,000 tons at an average price of $494 in the first quarter of 2011. The 64 percent increase in sales volume in the first quarter of 2012 compared to 2011 resulted from an unprecedented early start to the ammonia pre-plant application season and higher expected corn acres. Average price realizations increased 21 percent, reflecting a larger than normal percentage of agricultural ammonia in the sales mix. The company's ammonia plants in aggregate ran at approximately 100 percent of rated capacity during the quarter.
CF Industries sold 758,000 tons of granular urea at an average price of $461 in the first quarter of 2012, compared to 604,000 tons at an average price of $371 in the first quarter of 2011. Urea sales volume increased by 25 percent due to early corn pre-plant and strong wheat top-dress applications. During the quarter, the company utilized its manufacturing flexibility at Donaldsonville, Louisiana, and Courtright, Ontario, to maximize urea production and take advantage of attractive margin opportunities. Average urea price realizations increased 24 percent year-over-year.
The company sold 1.4 million tons of UAN in the first quarter of 2012 at an average price of $302 per ton, compared to 1.5 million tons at an average price of $277 in the year-ago quarter. Sales volume was down from the prior year period because of lower demand due to higher down-stream inventories and the company's decision to favor urea sales. Average realized prices were higher in the first quarter of 2012 than in 2011 due to delivery of favorably priced orders that were booked in previous quarters. The company did achieve higher prices as the quarter unfolded.
CF Industries sold 247,000 tons of AN at an average price of $259 per ton in the first quarter of 2012, compared to 244,000 tons at an average price of $251 per ton in the year-ago quarter. Average selling prices increased due to strong demand for agricultural applications.
CF Industries continued to benefit from the abundant supply of natural gas driven by the increase in production of North American shale gas and favorable weather. The company's realized natural gas cost averaged $3.48 per MMBtu in the first quarter of 2012, compared to $4.32 during the first quarter of 2011. The decline in natural gas prices was caused by lower demand due to mild winter weather, continued growth in North American natural gas production and record storage levels. Winter temperatures greatly exceeded historical averages, resulting in the second fewest heating degree days recorded in the past 80 years. As a result, gas storage inventory at the end of March stood at 2.48 trillion cubic feet, an all-time record for the end of winter and 60 percent higher than the five-year average.
Phosphate net sales totaled $255.9 million, up three percent from $248.1 million in the 2011 first quarter. Gross margin was $49.7 million, down 40 percent from $82.5 million in the 2011 first quarter. The decrease in gross margin was due primarily to lower average selling prices and higher raw material costs, which were partially offset by higher sales volumes. Gross margin as a percent of sales was 19 percent, down from 33 percent in the year-earlier quarter.
The company sold 516,000 tons of phosphate products in the first quarter of 2012 compared to 440,000 tons in the first quarter of 2011. During the first quarter of 2012, DAP and MAP average selling prices were $494 and $506, respectively, compared to $562 and $569, respectively, in the prior year period. The 17 percent increase in sales volume was driven by a higher level of export sales. Average selling prices declined due primarily to higher North American industry inventory levels relative to the prior year period.
CF Industries' Plant City, Florida, Phosphate Complex operated at 86 percent of capacity during the 2012 first quarter. As previously announced, in the first quarter the company executed a planned maintenance program for portions of the complex which originally had been scheduled for later in the year.
Environmental, Health & Safety Performance
The following company facilities achieved safety milestones during the first quarter of 2012:
The Courtright, Ontario, Nitrogen Complex achieved eleven years without a lost time accident (LTA);
The Port Neal, Iowa, Nitrogen Complex achieved three years without an LTA; and
The Plant City, Florida, Phosphate Complex achieved one year without an LTA.
One LTA affected a CF Industries employee during the 2012 first quarter.
Liquidity and Financial Position
At March 31, 2012, CF Industries' cash and cash equivalents totaled $1.7 billion. Long-term debt outstanding was $1.6 billion.
On May 1, 2012, the company entered into a new five year, $500 million revolving credit facility. The terms of the new credit facility are generally consistent with the company's investment grade credit rating. The new facility provides the company greater flexibility in deploying cash in pursuit of its long term strategic objectives.
"The strength of our company's operations and our ability to generate cash consistently are clearly evident in the health of our balance sheet," said Wilson. "While we did not repurchase any shares during the quarter, we remain committed to the program and will buy back shares opportunistically."
On April 27, 2012, CF Industries' board of directors declared the regular quarterly dividend of $0.40 per common share. The dividend will be paid on May 30, 2012, to stockholders of record on May 15, 2012.
CF Industries is positioned to benefit from a multitude of factors that support its growth and cash generation potential. Global population growth, rising income levels leading to a shift towards higher protein diets, and continued use of grains as a source of fuel are all contributing to the need to produce more grain and utilize more plant nutrients. Additionally, the increased production of North American shale gas and the associated decline in natural gas prices have created a sustainable cost advantage for the company's production of nitrogen products.
CF Industries' high expectations for the spring planting season continue to be realized. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that farmers intend to plant 95.9 million acres of corn, 55.9 million acres of wheat and 13.2 million acres of cotton this crop year. At current crop prices, farmers have the opportunity to continue to realize strong profits, and the economics remain attractive for corn planting.
Ammonia demand has been robust and favorable weather is providing good conditions for an expected strong side-dress season.
Urea markets are likely to remain tight through early summer. Low inventory in North America, along with expected buying activity in Latin America, India and Southeast Asia, should provide support of the market through the planting season.
UAN prices have increased recently in reaction to high urea prices and strong dealer demand in preparation for UAN side-dress applications. The company expects a strong UAN application season due to large plantings and tight supplies of ammonia and urea.
High demand and continued delays in international capacity additions are expected to keep world ammonia and urea supply and demand in an approximately balanced condition at least through the first half of the year. For phosphates, CF Industries anticipates the export market to continue to offer more attractive selling opportunities than the domestic market due to strong demand in Latin America and India.
"Long term, we believe tight global grain stocks will sustain high farm profits, plantings and fertilizer demand," said Wilson. "We believe that we have the right business mix, the right production and distribution assets and the right team to continue to take advantage of these conditions for the benefit of our shareholders."
The company projects capital expenditures of approximately $400 million in 2012 and continues its work on front-end engineering and design studies related to the previously announced decision to invest up to $1.0 to $1.5 billion in production capacity and product mix enhancements within its existing North American nitrogen facilities over the next four years.