February 2, 2012 / 7:50 PM / 6 years ago

Verde plan wins mixed reviews, investors underwhelmed

* Analysts dividend on new Verde potash project

* Investors remain unimpressed with more costly plan

* Verde shares continue to trade sharply lower

TORONTO, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Verde Potash's move to shelve plans to produce a cheaper variant of the crop nutrient potash at a project in Brazil got mixed reviews from analysts this week but has failed to impress investors, and the stock was still sharply lower on Thursday.

Verde's shares fell as much as 22 percent on Tuesday after the company said it had decided on a costlier plan to produce a more common form of the crop nutrient. The stock has since pared some of its losses but it continues to trade about 18 percent lower than its close of C$8.56 on Monday.

In a research note, Dundee Capital Markets analyst Richard Kelertas argued that Verde's new plan not only raises capital and operating costs at the Cerrado Verde project in Brazil, but it also delays the start-up of the project.

"We are taken aback by Verde's sudden shift in focus. We consider the implications negative and are downgrading our recommendation to a 'Neutral' from a 'Buy'," wrote Kelertas in a note to clients on Thursday.

In a surprise move on Tuesday morning, the Canadian-listed company said it intended to focus its efforts on potassium chloride - a conventional potash crop nutrient, while suspending its work on ThermoPotash - a lower cost and potentially lower priced potassium-based variant.

Negative reaction was not unanimous. Some analysts cheered Verde's move and raised their price targets on the company.

Peter Prattas of Fraser Mackenzie raised his price target on shares of Verde to C$11 from C$10 on Thursday, noting that the company's plan appears "technically sound" although it is more costly than other conventional methods used to produce potash.

In a note to clients, Mackie Research analyst Jaret Anderson wrote, "we applaud management's decision to prioritize the advancement of its potassium chloride production process and temporarily suspend feasibility studies for the ThermoPotash project".

Anderson raised his price target on the shares to C$19 from C$12.

The votes of confidence failed to soothe investor concerns about Verde's new plan and shares of the exploration company were one of the biggest losers on the TSX Venture Exchange on Thursday, down 25 Canadian cents at C$7.

$1=$1 Canadian Reporting By Euan Rocha; Editing by Peter Galloway

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