Chile's SQM profits fall over 30 percent on lower fertilizer prices

SANTIAGO Wed Aug 27, 2014 9:48am EDT

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SANTIAGO Aug 27 (Reuters) - A global fall in prices for agricultural chemicals led profit to fall over 30 percent at Chilean fertilizer group SQM in the second quarter, although the top global producer said prices should begin to pick up soon.

Net profit in the April to June quarter was $71 million, the company reported late on Tuesday. That compared to the average market forecast for $83 million, according to a Reuters poll.

Last year, SQM reported second-quarter net income of $107 million.

The company taps huge reserves of caliche ore and brine in the Atacama desert for potash and iodine, as well as rechargeable battery ingredient lithium.

Potash prices, which were hit hard by the collapse of a European cartel in July 2013, were over 20 percent lower than in the first half of 2013 but had begun to stabilize, said chief executive Patricio Contesse in a statement released with the results.

"We are seeing signs that prices may begin to recover in the coming months, and we expect SQM's sales volumes to be higher than the ones seen in 2013," he said.

Growth in demand for iodine looked "slightly stronger" than in 2013 but prices had fallen nearly 20 percent between the second half of 2013 and first half of 2014, he added.

SQM shares, which fell sharply in 2013 but are up around 23 percent since the start of the year, closed on Tuesday at 16,446 pesos per share, valuing the firm at just over $7 billion. (Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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