Yara eyeing Vale's fertilizer business, other buying opportunities

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Norway's Yara International YAR.OL sees Vale SA's VALE5.SA fertilizer business as one of several investment opportunities, as the company eyes potential further acquisitions in Brazil, its chief financial officer said on Wednesday.

Vale said in an April securities filing that it “continues to work to form a strategic partnership in fertilizers, with the aim of divesting and raising cash.”

“That’s clearly one of the opportunities,” said Chief Financial Officer Torgeir Kvidal, on the sidelines of a BMO Capital Markets investor conference in New York. He declined to say if Yara and Vale have talked about a deal.

It is not the only buying opportunity, however, and Kvidal said that low fertilizer prices have created more willing sellers of production and distribution assets.

The company is also looking to North America, Europe and Africa for potential buys, even as it carries out a $2.2 billion expansion program of its own. Yara's expansion plan for 2016 includes an ammonia plant in Texas with BASF SE BASFn.DE and a new Brazilian phosphate mine.

“Clearly, we have already a lot on our plate,” Kvidal said. “So we are not hurrying. If we go into any new projects, it’s because they look so attractive.”

The company has invested heavily in major fertilizer importer Brazil in recent years, including a $275 million expansion of its Rio Grande fertilizer plant, announced in April, on top of $1.5 billion worth of expansions and acquisitions there in recent years.

Political volatility and weak currency in Brazil is mitigated by the fact that agriculture is an export business there, and farmers are paid in “hard currency,” Kvidal said.

A build-up of new capacity should generate growing global surpluses of urea and ammonia, popular forms of nitrogen to fertilize crops, to 2019 and 2018, respectively, according to BMO data.

In April, Yara reported stronger than expected first-quarter earnings and said lower energy costs in the next two quarters would help its performance.

Reporting by Rod Nickel in New York; Editing by Matthew Lewis