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Potash shares rally as Belaruskali inks China supply deal

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Potash shares rose, as Belaruskali finally announced a supply deal with Chinese buyers.

BPC, which markets the state-owned Belarussian miner's potash, announced that it had agreed to sell a consortium of Chinese firm's potash at $219 a tonne.

The deal will set an industry benchmark for potash prices for the rest of the year, and comes in a touch stronger than expected.

Credite Suisse last week forecast that the contract would be signed "no higher" than $210 a tonne.

Benchmark system

Although this year's contract is some 30% lower than lower than last year, the agreement brings a touch of stability to an unstable markets.

The once-staid world of potash pricing has been increasingly uncertain of late, as buyers find themselves holding the whip hand over sellers.

Up recently, potash contracts followed a regular schedule, with deals agreed between BPC and the North American selling consortium Canpotex, and buyers in China, in January and February, with deals with Indian buyers following shortly afterwards.

These contracts were used as benchmarks for the spot market for the rest of the year, with the Chinese contract representing a price floor.

Delayed deal

But Uralkali's withdrawal from the BPC cartel in 2013 has seen supply discipline collapse, even as low crop prices weigh on demand.

Markets have until now been waiting in vain for Uralkali, Belaruskali, or Canpotex, to strike a deal with Chinese buyers, although Belaruskali broke with the usual order of events, by inking a deal to sell 700,000 tonnes of potash to Indian Potash Limited at $227 per tonne in June.

Israel Chemical followed suit with an Indian deal struck shortly afterward.

Talk of cartel reforming

With potash prices at historically low levels, there have been signs of interest in reforming the BPC cartel.

Last month the Belarusian president, who holds ultimate authority over Belaruskali, announced his openness to the deal.

And this week the Belarussian businessman Dmitri Lobyak, who last week bought 20% of the Russia-based Uralkali, this week told Reuters that a renewal of the cartel was "in everyone's interests".

Shares rally

Shares in potash companies rose on the news, with extra support coming as the US company Mosaic announced it was idling one of its facilities, in Saskatchawan, Canada, which will further support prices.

Potash Corp shares were up 1.6% in mid-day deals, at C$22.25

Mosaic shares were up 3.6%, at $28.40, while Uralkali shares were up 0.8%, at 182.50 roubles.

Intrepid Potash shares soared by 9.6%, to $1.480, while German salt and potash company K+S saw shares rise by 6.5%, to E20.01.


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