This Fertilizer Giant is Set to Deliver Strong Returns – Here’s Why Nutrien is a Top Pick

Ajit Kushwaha

Nutrien Ltd. (NTR) is shaping up to be an attractive investment opportunity for dividend and value investors alike. As the largest crop nutrient company in the world with a market cap of $28.53 billion, Nutrien enjoys significant competitive advantages that position it well for long-term growth and steady shareholder returns.

Diversified Business Model Provides Stability

Nutrien has an integrated business model across the retail, potash, nitrogen, and phosphate segments. This provides diversification to the company’s earnings and makes it less susceptible to volatility in any one crop nutrient market.

The company has particularly low-cost potash and nitrogen production capabilities stemming from its strategic acquisitions and mergers over the past years.

This diversified crop nutrient exposure gives Nutrien an edge over other players focused on a single segment. The company can shift capital allocation dynamically across its business units to maximize returns.

Additionally, its extensive agriculture retail network provides valuable insights into farmer demands and crop nutrient application.

Strong Free Cash Flow to Support Growth and Returns

Nutrien produces substantial free cash flows, providing it the capability to invest in growth while also returning significant capital to shareholders. The company expects to generate over $4 billion in free cash flow annually.

It has a clear capital allocation strategy focused on enhancing competitiveness, expanding production capacity, strategic acquisitions, and returning capital to shareholders.

The company plans to invest $3.7 billion over the next three years in high-return brownfield expansion projects. These projects aim to enhance Nutrien’s low-cost position by increasing operational efficiency. The company also continues to evaluate smart acquisitions to increase market share.

At the same time, Nutrien has returned $3.8 billion to shareholders in the last 12 months through dividends and share buybacks. Its dividend offers a secure ~4% yield, with expectations for steady growth ahead that outpaces inflation. The company is also aggressively repurchasing shares while valuations remain attractive.

Attractive Valuation and Total Return Potential

Nutrien stock currently trades close to its 52-week lows, with a favorable valuation relative to historical averages. The forward P/E ratio is about 10.0x compared to a 5-year average of over 16.0x. This implies the stock price has substantial room for upside.

Analysts estimate Nutrien’s very strong free cash flow generation will allow capital returns to yield over 10% annually in the coming years. The estimated >4% dividend yield and ~6% yield from buybacks positions the stock well for double-digit annual total returns over the long term.

The company also has a strong balance sheet with $3.7 billion in cash and short-term investments. Its BBB credit rating from S&P enables financial flexibility. Overall, the company’s capital return potential coupled with the potential for P/E multiple expansion adds up to a highly compelling risk-reward proposition.

Key Industry Tailwinds Driving Demand

The broader agriculture sector trends will likely be a boon for Nutrien over the long term. Rising global population, reduced arable land per capita, and shifting food consumption patterns towards more protein are key structural growth drivers for crop nutrient demand.

While crop nutrient prices fluctuate year-to-year, the long-term demand outlook remains strong. Nutrien’s positioning allows it to withstand short-term headwinds due to demand elasticity issues in the sector.

Regardless, crop prices and farm incomes also remain healthy currently, supporting stronger fertilizer application rates worldwide.

Mitigating Volatility Risks

Volatility in crop nutrient prices influenced by the confluence of various factors does pose risks for investors. But Nutrien’s diversified business model, discretionary capital expenditure capability, and strategic acquisitions provide stability. Its retail segment also gives it a buffer from spot market fluctuations.

The company generates ample free cash flows even in a low commodity price environment, allowing it to maintain dividends and reduce debt if required. It also has considerable flexibility to modulate capacity utilization across its production facilities to align with demand.

Overall, while risks exist, Nutrien has several mitigants through its diversification, balance sheet strength, and flexible operations. The long-term outlook remains bright, with cyclical headwinds likely remaining short-lived.

Bottom Line

Nutrien’s integrated business model, robust free cash flow generation, attractive capital return outlook, strong balance sheet, and favorable industry backdrop make a compelling case for investment today.

The company is poised to deliver stable growth and steady shareholder returns through its multi-pronged growth strategy focused on driving operational efficiency, capacity expansion, strategic acquisitions, and digital innovation.

For dividend and value investors alike, Nutrien offers an excellent risk-reward opportunity. The stable and growing dividend, potential for dividend hikes, and substantial share buyback yield position it as an attractive investment.

The stock presents long-term total return potential that could significantly outperform the market.

Frequently Ask Questions

Why is Nutrien’s diversified business model an advantage?

Nutrien’s presence across retail, potash, nitrogen, and phosphate segments provides diversification and stability. This mitigates the risks from volatility in any one nutrient segment. The company can allocate capital flexibly across units.

How does Nutrien’s free cash flow support growth and returns?

Nutrien generates over $4 billion in free cash annually. This allows investment in efficiency-enhancing brownfield expansion and acquisitions. It also enables Nutrien to return significant capital to shareholders through dividends and buybacks.

What is Nutrien’s expected capital return yield?

Analysts estimate Nutrien’s free cash flow generation can support a capital return yield of over 10% annually in the coming years. This factors in the >4% dividend yield and ~6% yield from share buybacks.

Why is Nutrien’s valuation attractive for investors?

Nutrien’s forward P/E ratio is near 10x, lower than its historical 5-year average of over 16x. This implies the stock has room for upside as the multiple expands to normal levels.

What are the key industry tailwinds that benefit Nutrien?

Long-term growth in global population, rising food demand, shrinking arable land, and increasing consumption of protein foods drive steady increases in crop nutrient demand. This benefits Nutrien.

How does Nutrien mitigate risks from nutrient price volatility?

Nutrien’s diversified business, discretionary capex, retail segment, and flexible operations allow it to manage volatility risks substantially better than other players.

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Ajit Kushwaha is a stock market investor and business owner of a chips manufacturing company in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand, India. He holds a Bsc. from Vinobha Bhave University and leverages over 5 years of stock market experience in managing investments and his snack food business.
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