COMPANY NEWS IN BRIEF

12 August 2020 | Business

Nutrien cuts profit forecast

Canadian fertilizer maker Nutrien Ltd cut its annual adjusted profit forecast as weaker-than-normal industrial demand held back prices for ammonia and urea ammonium nitrate.

The company cut the top end of its 2020 adjusted earnings per share forecast to US$1.90 from US$2.10 earlier, while retaining the lower end at US$1.50.

Even as industrial utilization picked up in Asia, weak demand in Western Hemisphere hurt ammonia prices, Nutrien said.

The company said demand for urea was strong in India and expects Chinese urea exports to pick up pace in the second half, though they are lower year-on-year.

Revenue of US$8.18 billion for the second quarter missed analysts' estimate of US$8.35 billion, according to Refinitiv IBES.

Potash sales volumes in North America rose from an increase in US planted acreage and more normal weather this spring, but prices still suffered as the benchmark was dragged by weak demand abroad. – Nampa/Reuters

Occidental posts loss

Occidental Petroleum Corp posted a US$8.35 billion second-quarter loss on lower energy prices and write-downs as the US oil producer has been trying to reduce debt amid a pandemic that has sapped fuel demand and prices.

Occidental, which borrowed heavily to finance last year's US$38 billion purchase of rival Anadarko Petroleum, cut the value of its oil and gas properties by US$6.6 billion, joining BP, Chevron and Total in massive write-downs as the industry now expects energy prices to stay low for years.

Its oil and gas production will fall 13% this quarter over last, and another 5% in the fourth quarter, to 1.16 million barrels of oil and gas per day, the company said.

In the Permian, where it became the largest operator through the Anadarko purchase, shale output will drop 37% this year, it said.

Shares fell nearly 6% in late trading after rising US$1.03 at US$16.48. The stock is down 61% so far this year.

The average price Occidental received for crude oil plummeted about 61% to US$23.17 per barrel in the second quarter as oil prices crashed. It has cut jobs, slashed its dividend, reduced spending plans and sold assets to shore up its finances. – Nampa/Reuters

Inovio to begin study

Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc expects its experimental Covid-19 vaccine to enter mid-to-late stage study in September and secure US emergency use authorization sometime in 2021, the US vaccine developer said on Monday.

The Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania-based company had previously said it would begin mid-stage human studies for the vaccine candidate, INO-4800, this summer.

Shares of the company were down 6% in trading after the bell. Inovio is in active talks with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and awaits the agency's approval to begin Phase 2/3 study in September, a company executive said during a post-earnings conference call.

The company in June reported encouraging results from an early stage human trial and received US$71 million from the US department of defence to scale up production of devices used to administer INO-4800.

Effective vaccines are seen as essential to controlling the pandemic that has claimed more than 731 700 lives worldwide, according to a Reuters tally. – Nampa/Reuters

PWC completes survey

Almost four out of five chief executives expect remote working to become more widespread in their businesses as a result of Covid-19, a global survey from accountancy firm PwC showed.

New York, London and some other major cities currently have only a fraction of their normal workforce in offices as employers and governments have told staff to work from home where possible.

While some authorities are now encouraging a return to work, PwC said 78% of the chief executives it surveyed expected that at least some of the shift towards remote collaboration would prove enduring.

"A blend of office and home working is most likely to be the future norm," PwC UK's chairman Kevin Ellis said.

Two-thirds of chief executives expected a global economic downturn as a result of Covid-19, and more than three-quarters expected a further shift towards automation.

PwC's survey was based on responses from a panel of 3 500 of its clients globally conducted between June 15 and July 3. – Nampa/Reuters

Simon profit disappoints

America's largest mall operator Simon Property Group Inc missed Wall Street estimates for quarterly profit on Monday, hurt by unpaid rent from retailers due to the Covid-19 pandemic that also led to a loss of 10 500 shopping days.

Simon, which operates about 200 US properties and houses brands such as Gap, Nordstrom, Brooks Brothers, Macy's, and J.C. Penney, is struggling as some of its clients have either filed for bankruptcy or are fighting to stay afloat while the pandemic continues to ravage their businesses.

Online retailer Amazon.com Inc and Simon have been in talks to convert some department stores in malls into distribution hubs, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier in the day.

Indianapolis-based Simon's chief executive officer David Simon said shoppers' response was encouraging as they begin to return to malls as they reopen after lockdowns.

The company said it has collected about 51% of its contractual rent billed for April and May combined, about 69% for June and about 73% for July from its US retail portfolio. Total revenue for the second quarter ended June 30 fell about 24% to US$1.06 billion. – Nampa/Reuters

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