CF Industries reports smaller-than-expected fourth-quarter loss

(Reuters) - CF Industries Holdings Inc CF.N reported a smaller-than-expected loss in the fourth quarter on Wednesday as the largest nitrogen fertilizer maker in North America sold more fertilizer at higher prices.

The company’s sales volume for ammonia jumped 58.4 percent in the quarter to 1.2 million tons and the average selling price rose 2.9 percent to $285 per ton.

Prices of nitrogen fertilizer rose as China shut down its low-cost coal-based fertilizer producers, which had kept prices low for years.

The company said nitrogen prices continue to rise in 2018, with Brazil and India driving the demand for urea but warned that margins could shrink due to higher oil and freight costs.

The company reported net profit of $465 million, or $1.98 per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with a loss of $320 million, or $1.38 per share, a year earlier.

Net profit benefited from $491 million one-time gain in the quarter due to changes in the U.S. tax law.

Excluding items, the company reported a loss of 2 cents per share, lower than the average analyst estimate of 8 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net sales in the quarter rose 27 percent to $1.1 billion. Analysts had expected the company to report a revenue of $977.91 million.

The company’s shares were up 3.2 percent at $40.25 in after-market trading on Wednesday.

Reporting by Karan Nagarkatti; Editing by Arun Koyyur