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Soquimich Profit Drops 57% on Lower Fertilizer Sales

By James Attwood and Nathan Gill
Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile SA, Chile’s biggest fertilizer producer, reported a 57 percent drop in third-quarter profit as lower prices dragged down sales.

Net income fell to $82.3 million from $191 million a year earlier, the Santiago-based company known as Soquimich wrote today in an e-mailed statement. The average estimate of four analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News was $77.6 million.

Operating income slumped to $110 million from $239 million and revenue slid to $384 million from $589 million. Potassium-related fertilizer prices in the second half are down on first-half levels and average prices for all products probably will be lower, Chief Executive Officer Patricio Contesse wrote in the statement.

“We believe that markets have bottomed out across all of our business lines and are beginning to turn around,” Contesse wrote. “The recovery process is slow and will most likely remain slow in the following year.”

Weak volume and lower prices of specialty chemicals probably hurt the company’s third-quarter earnings, outweighing higher potash volumes, JPMorgan Chase & Co. wrote today in a note to clients before the results were released.

“We believe 3Q09 trends are likely to persist for the remainder of the year and carry into early 2010,” wrote JPMorgan analyst Brian Chase, downgrading the stock to “underweight” from “neutral.”

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