UPDATE 2-CF Industries' Q4 profit falls less than expected

Tue Feb 18, 2014 5:49pm EST
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By Rod Nickel

Feb 18 (Reuters) - U.S. fertilizer producer CF Industries Holdings Inc posted a lower fourth-quarter profit on Tuesday, but the fall from record-high earnings a year earlier was not as steep as analysts had expected.

CF shares jumped 3.6 percent to $234.30 in New York after-hours trade following the company's earnings announcement.

The price of nitrogen-based fertilizers and other crop nutrients fell in 2013 due to weaker demand in some key regions and higher global supply.

CF, the world's second-biggest nitrogen producer after Norway's Yara International ASA, benefits from relatively low-cost North American natural gas, a key input in nitrogen fertilizer production, but CF's natural gas costs rose 4 percent during the period.

Ammonia demand in North America looks to be robust in the first half of 2014, assuming normal weather, but high inventories may constrain prices, CF said. The company said it expects U.S. farmers to plant 92 million acres of corn, a crop that consumes a lot of fertilizer.

Last year, U.S. farmers planted 95.4 million acres of corn.

Net earnings fell 31 percent, or $5.71 a share, to $325.8 million from $470.7 million, or $7.40 a share, a year earlier.   Continued...