UPDATE 3-Mosaic notches bigger profit, eyes share buyback
* Third-quarter EPS 81 cents vs 64 cents year earlier
* Plans stock buyback; wary of possible Potash-ICL deal
* Sees 4th-qtr potash volumes of 2.3 mln-2.6 mln tonnes
By Rod Nickel and Bhaswati Mukhopadhyay
March 28 (Reuters) - U.S. fertilizer producer Mosaic Co reported a 26 percent rise in third-quarter profit, driven by higher potash and phosphate volumes and said it wants to buy back shares later this year, lifting its stock 1.3 percent on Thursday.
Mosaic also said it expects a robust U.S. planting season, as farmers aim to maximize output to capitalize on high grain prices. But Chief Executive Jim Prokopanko said extended winter weather and potential spring flooding may drag the area planted to corn below the 96 million acres Mosaic is expecting.
"We are still a long way from the game really getting started," he said in an interview. "It's going to be weather dependent."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday estimated U.S. corn plantings at 97.3 million acres.
Heavy snow this winter has already hampered rail movement of Western Canadian potash to port by Canadian National Railway Co and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd, Prokopanko said. Mosaic is one of three potash miners in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, along with Potash Corp of Saskatchewan and Agrium Inc. Continued...