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China potash investment hits Israel Chemicals

China Investment Corp. has bought a 12.5% stake in Russian potash producer Uralkali.

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The share price of Israel Chemicals Ltd. (TASE: ICL) fell 2.5% by midday today, following the announcement that China Investment Corporation (CIC) has acquired12.5% of Russian potash producer Uralkali JSC (LSE: URKA) for $2 billion.

China is the world’s largest potash consumer, and an important customer for Israel Chemicals. The share price of Israel Chemicals fell on investors’ fears that now that China has a direct stake in one of the world’s leading potash producers, this could adversely affect purchases from Israel, as well as the price of potash on world markets.

In late July, Uralkali sent shockwaves through the global potash market when it withdrew from the Russian potash cartel with Belarusian Potash Company (BPC). The world’s other potash cartel is Canada’s Canpotex, comprising The Mosaic Company (NYSE: MOS), Agrium Inc. (NYSE; TSX: AGU), and Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. (NYSE; TSX: POT), which owns a stake in Israel Chemicals and wants to acquire the company. The announcement caused potash shares, including Israel Chemicals’ to plummet.

CIC’s acquisition of a stake in Uralkali, the first-ever direct investment in a potash producer by China, puts paid to speculation that Uralkali might try to revive the Russian potash cartel.
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