K+S Reviewing Corporate Strategy

18.05.2017 -

German minerals producer K+S is reviewing its corporate strategy with an eye to improving the performance of its share price, executives said at the annual general meeting last week, without giving details. The share price initially rose on the news.

Chief Financial Officer Burkhard Lohr, who has just replaced Norbert Steiner as CEO, told shareholders the company has no intention of dropping either of its two current business lines, potash and salt. The fertilizer industry supplier based at Kassel is also one of the world’s largest salt producers.

Essentially, Lohr said, the time has come to think about what the future of the K+S two-pillar strategy could look like and how the value of its salt business could be better reflected in its share price.

For analysts, the executive’s remarks to shareholders and his comments to the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung suggested that the company may be signaling it is open to merger talks. “If a shareholder is willing to follow our strategic orientation, it is cordially invited,” Lohr told FAZ.

In 2015, the company, once part of BASF, was the subject of a takeover attempt by Canada’s Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan – the Canadians eventually backed away and in 2016 merged with compatriot fertilizer producer Agrium. German management feared the North American competitor would close its potash mines at home as they operated less profitably than those on the other side of the Atlantic.

At the beginning of May, K+S Potash Canada, a subsidiary of the German company, inaugurated its $3.4 billion Legacy mine in Saskatchewan, built in partnership with Amec Foster Wheeler and said to be the first potash project of its kind in the province in more than 40 years. This was also the largest single project for K+S, the world’s fifth-largest global potash seller.

The mine, now renamed Bethune after the nearest town, will be able to produce 2 million t/y of potash at full capacity. Since construction began five years ago, potash prices have fallen by about half, due to global oversupply, reports said.