Uralkali’s Sales Chief Quits, Seen Affecting China Potash Talks

15.10.2015
Yuliya Fedorinova / Bloomberg (UK)

Uralkali PJSC’s head of sales quit after a decade working with the world’s largest potash producer, a move potentially affecting delicate price negotiations likely to begin during the final two months of the year with China, the biggest consumer of the fertilizer.

Oleg Petrov, 52, will leave from Nov. 1 for a new opportunity, Russia’s Uralkali said in a statement Thursday. He will still advise the chief executive officer when necessary, it said.

“Petrov was one of the key figures in Uralkali management,” Elena Sakhnova, an analyst at VTB Capital, said after the resignation. “His departure from the company ahead of the talks over the new supply contract with China may affect the final price.”

Talks with China usually set a global benchmark price for potash for the coming year and a group including Uralkali was normally the first to sign a deal, though not in 2015. Peers including Canpotex Ltd., the exporter for North American producers such as Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc., would then typically follow that lead on pricing.

Market Susceptible

The market’s susceptible to disruption if key people change, Sakhnova said, citing as a precedent Uralkali’s decision to break a trading venture with Belarus in 2013. That led to several months of slower sales of Belarussian potash as the new traders the country had to rely on were “total strangers” to the market, she said.

China may get a lower price than was expected and Belarus may take the lead in this year’s talks, particularly given that Canpotex will also get a new CEO in November, she said. VTB had forecast a new China potash price of $275 a metric ton, from this year’s $315.

“Petrov had among the best contacts in the global industry and the Chinese are usually cautious with new counterparts,” said Konstantin Yuminov, a Raiffeisenbank analyst.

The marketing chief had worked in Belarusian Potash Co., the former trader of Uralkali and Belaruskali, from 2005 and was appointed as Uralkali sales director in 2011. Vladislav Lyan, who has more than 15 years’ experience in export sales, including in Eurochem and Uralkali’s shareholder Uralchem JSC, will succeed Petrov, Uralkali said. The company’s press service declined to elaborate and Petrov wasn’t immediately available for comment.

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