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UPDATE 2-Nutrien beats quarterly profit expectation on strong potash sales

(Compares with estimates, adds share movement, Mosaic results, details from results)

Feb 17 (Reuters) - Canadian fertilizer maker Nutrien Ltd posted fourth-quarter profit above analysts’ estimates on Wednesday as potash demand rose amid rising crop prices, sending its U.S.-listed shares up 4.5% in extended trade.

Fertilizer producers have benefited from high U.S. crop exports, including record-large corn sales to China. With crop prices touching multi-year highs, farmers are poised to plant more acres in 2021 and would require more fertilizers for their plantings.

“Agriculture fundamentals began to improve in late 2020 and we are starting to see the benefit to our business from this cyclical recovery,” Chief Executive Officer Chuck Magro said.

Rival Mosaic also topped Wall Street estimate for quarterly profit as its potash sales improved, sending its shares up 2.4% in extended trade.

Improving fertilizer markets during the second half of 2020 reflected the tightening supply and demand balance in both potash and phosphates, Mosaic said. (bit.ly/3qu4Er2)

Nutrien said on Wednesday it expects annual adjusted profit to range between $2.05 per share and $2.75 per share, the mid-point of which was slightly higher than analysts’ average estimate of $2.38 per share, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Adjusted core earnings from its potash segment jumped nearly 48% to $220 million in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31.

Potash sales volumes increased nearly 29% due to strong domestic and offshore demand, supported by improved global crop prices, increased planted acreage in the United States and strong fall application in North America in anticipation of higher planting in 2021, Nutrien said in a statement.

The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based company posted adjusted net income of $138 million, or 24 cents per share, compared with $54 million, or 9 cents per share, a year earlier. Analysts were expecting a profit of 17 cents per share.

Nutrien also increased its quarterly dividend to $0.46 and approved the purchase of up to 5% of its outstanding shares over a one-year period. (Reporting by Arunima Kumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel, Arun Koyyur and Subhranshu Sahu)

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