August 13, 2015 / 11:40 AM / 4 years ago

K+S says will look at higher Potash bid, profit jumps

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s K+S AG (SDFGn.DE) said it would consider any improved offer from Canada’s Potash Corp of Saskatchewan POT.TO after its position was boosted by stronger than expected quarterly earnings.

The company affirmed its rejection of a 7.9 billion euro ($8.8 billion) takeover proposal by Potash, but left the door open on Thursday to an improved bid.

“K+S will deliver strong results as a stand-alone company,” finance chief Burkhard Lohr said during an earnings call. “K+S has a great future as an independent company.”

The Canadian firm’s takeover proposal of 41 euros per share does not even remotely reflect K+S’s underlying value, the CFO said, questioning again reassurances the Canadian firm has given on jobs and sites.

K+S’s management and supervisory boards “are extremely concerned that Potash appears to have no sustained interest in continuing the strategically, technically and financially linked fertilizer and salt activities in the current form,” it said.

But CFO Lohr made clear that K+S does not oppose a takeover in principle and would study an improved offer by Potash Corp.

“Don’t get me wrong: We are not at all blocking a potential transaction,” he said.

K+S shares traded up 0.8 percent at 36.27 euros as of 07:25 a.m. EDT, underperforming Germany’s bluechip DAX index which was up 2 percent. They remain well below the proposed takeover price.

Higher prices for thawing salt in North America, cost cuts and the stronger dollar boosted second-quarter operating profit at K+S by 14 percent compared with year-earlier levels to 179.2 million euros, K+S said on Thursday, beating a 168 million-euro consensus forecast in a Reuters poll.

The salt and fertilizer company kept its forecast for clearly higher earnings and sales this year, despite incurring “significant costs” defending itself against the Potash Corp bid.

The potash miner said it now expects operating profit to increase to a range of 780-860 million euros, from 641 million last year, and anticipates sales of between 4.35-4.55 billion euros, after 3.82 billion in 2014.

The Kassel-based company had previously not released specific targets for 2015 profit and sales.

By contrast, Potash last month reduced the top end of its full-year earnings forecast and reported lower quarterly profit, mainly due to weakened nitrogen prices.

Editing by Keith Weir

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