(Updates with global shipments forecasts, China comment, share activity)
By Shubhankar Chakravorty and Rod Nickel
Feb 11 (Reuters) - U.S. fertilizer company Mosaic Co’s fourth-quarter profit nearly tripled, helped by strong demand for phosphates and potash.
The company’s shares rose 2.3 percent at $51.94 in morning trading in New York on Wednesday.
Demand for some fertilizers has grown as low prices and thin inventories of nutrients to boost crop growth attract buyers. Rival Potash Corp of Saskatchewan last month reported higher-than-expected quarterly profit.
Mosaic, the world’s largest producer of finished phosphate products, expects global phosphate shipments by all producers to range from 64.5 million to 66.5 million tonnes, possibly a record high after last year’s estimated 64.6 million.
Global potash shipments may range between 58 million and 60 million tonnes, down from last year’s 61.1 million.
Mosaic looks to sell 2.8 to 3.1 million tonnes of phosphates at $440 to $465 per tonne in the current quarter.
The company sold 2.7 million tonnes of phosphate at an average price of $414 per tonne in the first quarter last year.
Mosaic cut phosphate output in September due to high costs of raw materials sulfur and ammonia. Diammonium phosphate prices have since rebounded modestly.
Mosaic, North America’s second-biggest potash producer, expects to sell 2.0 to 2.3 million tonnes of potash at an average price of $270-$295 per tonne in the first quarter.
The company sold 2.4 million tonnes of potash at an average price of $267 per tonne a year earlier.
Mosaic, which sells potash to markets outside North America through Canpotex Ltd, a company it owns with Potash Corp and Agrium Inc, has sales commitments for all of its first-quarter potash output, Chief Executive Jim Prokopanko said.
The company is not impatient for Canpotex to reach a 2015 potash supply contract with Chinese buyer Sinofert Holdings Ltd , he said, and an agreement could come this quarter.
Net earnings jumped to $360.7 million, or 97 cents per share in the fourth quarter from $128.9 million, or 30 cents per share a year earlier.
Net sales rose 9 percent to $2.38 billion.
The company sold 3.3 million tonnes of phosphate at an average diammonium phosphate price of $448 per tonne and 2.3 million tonnes of potash at an average price of $295 per tonne. (Reporting by Shubhankar Chakravorty in Bengaluru and Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Maju Samuel and James Dalgleish)