BY DEVIN HEROUX, THE STARPHOENIX; BLOOMBERG NEWS JUNE 2, 2011
Canpotex took the opportunity to promote its company in front of a business crowd Wednesday in Saskatoon.
The message delivered by Jon Somers, vice-president of planning and development, highlighted the successes of the company during the past 40 years.
“It’s not often that we get out in front of the public community, so when we do get the chance, we try to make the most of it,” Somers said to a crowd.
It’s Mining Week across Saskatchewan with events planned in all corners of the province including Estevan, La Ronge, Prince Albert, Regina and Saskatoon.
Wednesday’s luncheon, organized by the Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce, invited Somers to address the audience about Canpotex and its focus on improving relationships in the industry.
Canpotex is the offshore marketing company owned jointly by the three Saskatchewan potash-producing companies – Agrium Inc., Mosaic Co. and Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc.
Somers has been with the company since 1995, when he began his career as a management trainee. Since that time, he has helped the company expand its portfolio to be the world’s largest exporter of potash.
Somers used the podium to share the company’s achievements during the past four decades of operation, including being the first foreign supplier of potash to China.
“We take pride in the fact that we believe Canpotex has never lost a customer in 40 years of business,” Somers said. “I don’t think any customer has left when we wanted to maintain the relationship.”
Recently, the firm announced the beginning of work on a $55-million railcar maintenance and staging facility, to be located 12 kilometres to the southwest of Lanigan. Forty jobs will be created during construction and another 20 will be added once the facility becomes operational in fall 2012.
Currently, the company has offices in Saskatoon, Vancouver, Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo. While it employs 95 people around the world, more than 60 of the employees are based in Saskatoon. But Somers says there are competitors looming in the marketplace.
“For those who don’t think there’s competition, well, there truly is,” Somers said. “We have to compete with producing activities from Russia, Belarus, Israel, Jordan, Germany, Spain, the U.K., China, Brazil and even in the U.S. We are fortunate in Saskatchewan to part of an industry where we have significant resources.”
During his presentation, Somers never made mention of BHP Billiton Ltd., which is examining the possibility of developing a potash mine in the Jansen area.
BHP said during its failed takeover attempt of PotashCorp last fall it prefers to market the products it produces on its own, not through an agency such as Canpotex.
When the floor was open for questions, Somers was asked about BHP moving into Canpotex turf.
Somers said BHP is an amazing company that did things its own way.
Asked for comment on the issue, Somers directed all media inquiries to Canpotex’s spokesperson.
Canpotex feels confident in its position in the potash industry in Saskatchewan, he told the crowd.
“We need to continue to expand our capacity. We’re just finishing up a $50-million expansion to our existing facility in Vancouver, and then we’re trying to decide where we go next.”
POTASHCORP MAY ADD CAPACITY
Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc., the world’s largest fertilizer producer, may build an additional five million metric tons of potash capacity at existing mines in Canada, chief financial officer Wayne Brownlee said.
The increased production capacity in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick would add to previously announced expansion plans for its Canadian potash mines, Brownlee said Wednesday at a Scotia Capital investor conference in Toronto.
“That is something that we will be assessing over the next year or two to make a determination as to when we could bring those projects on stream,” he said.
Farmers are boosting purchases of potash, a form of potassium, to maximize crop yields as corn, soybean and wheat futures advance. Potash has risen 21 per cent in the past year to $664.55 a metric ton, according to a Bloomberg index of U.S. Midwest prices.
Saskatoon-based PotashCorp is in the midst of projects that will roughly double its annual potash capacity at existing mines to 17.1 million tons by 2015, from the level in 2005, Brownlee said. The company may be able to further expand annual output capacity by about three million tons in Saskatchewan and two million in New Brunswick, he said.
PotashCorp fell $1.21, or 2.2 per cent, to $53.41, in Toronto Stock Exchange trading Wednesday. The shares have gained 3.7 per cent this year.