UPDATE 3-Mosaic to mine phosphate in Saudi Arabia, eyeing India
* Project led by Ma'aden offers MOS second geographical source
* Analyst sees solid strategic move
* Shares down slightly in New York
By Rod Nickel
March 19 (Reuters) - U.S. fertilizer producer Mosaic Co plans to invest up to $1 billion in a joint venture to produce phosphate in Saudi Arabia, giving the Minnesota-based company a road into India and other growing Asian markets.
The $7 billion project, including a mine and chemical complexes to make phosphate fertilizer, will be 60 percent owned by Saudi Arabian mining and metals company Ma'aden. Mosaic will own 25 percent and petrochemical company Saudi Basic Industries Corp JSC (SABIC) will hold 15 percent.
Fertilizer companies have rapidly expanded production capacity for the two other main crop nutrients, nitrogen and potash, to cash in on increased food demand as Asia's population expands.
Phosphate capacity has not increased as quickly, said Mosaic Chief Executive Jim Prokopanko.
"The only way we're going to increase the food supply is with more technology, principally crop nutrients applied to fields around the world," Prokopanko said in an interview. "This (project shows) our belief that phosphate has been underinvested in." Continued...