These excerpts taken from the CF 10-K filed Feb 26, 2009.
A change in the use of the forward pricing program by our customers could increase our exposure to fluctuations in our profit margins and materially adversely affect our operating results, liquidity and financial condition.
In mid-2003, we implemented a forward pricing program (FPP). Through our FPP, we offer our customers the opportunity to purchase product on a forward basis at prices and delivery dates we propose. This improves our liquidity due to the cash payments received from customers in advance of shipment of the product, allows us to improve our production scheduling, and planning, and the utilization of our manufacturing assets.
As our customers enter into forward nitrogen fertilizer purchase contracts with us, we generally use natural gas derivatives or fixed price fertilizer purchase contracts to hedge against changes in the price of natural gas, the largest and most volatile component of our supply cost. Fixing the selling prices of our products under our FPP, often months in advance of their ultimate delivery to customers, typically causes our reported selling prices and margins to differ from spot market prices and margins available at the time of shipment. Additionally, the use of derivatives to lock in the majority of our margins on FPP sales of nitrogen products can result in volatility in reported earnings due to the unrealized mark-to-market adjustments that occur from changes in the value of the derivatives prior to the purchase of the natural gas.
We are also exposed to losses in the event of default by derivative counterparties or to changes in our working capital and liquidity in the event of significant margin calls or losses on the derivative portfolio.
Under our FPP, customers generally make an initial cash down payment at the time of order and pay the remaining portion of the contract sales value in advance of the shipment date, thereby significantly increasing our liquidity. Any cash payments received in advance from customers in connection with the FPP are reflected on our balance sheet as a current liability until the related orders are shipped, which can take up to several months, or more. As of December 31, 2008, our current liability for customer advances related to unshipped orders under the FPP equaled approximately 56% of our cash and cash equivalents.
We believe the FPP is most appealing to our customers during periods of generally increasing prices for nitrogen fertilizers. Our customers may be less willing or even unwilling to purchase products on a forward basis during periods of generally decreasing or stable prices or during periods of relatively high fertilizer prices. For example, in late 2005, a period during which prices for nitrogen fertilizer products reached then record high levels, our orders under the FPP declined significantly as our
customers and their customers preferred to defer purchases of fertilizer products rather than commit to purchasing products at such high prices. Sales under the FPP were lower during 2006, a period of relatively high fertilizer prices, compared to 2005, with forward sales of nitrogen fertilizer products declining from approximately 70% of our nitrogen fertilizer volume during 2005 to approximately 44% in 2006. Conversely, our customers may also be more willing to increase their use of FPP during periods of rapidly rising fertilizer prices as was the case in late 2007 and much of 2008. During this period of rapidly increasing nitrogen fertilizer prices, forward sales of nitrogen fertilizer products increased under the program to approximately 66% of our nitrogen fertilizer volume in 2007 and 74% in 2008. In environments such as this, our profit margins may be lower than if we had not sold our nitrogen fertilizers under the FPP.
The FPP is also less effective at reducing our exposure to fluctuations in our profit margins in circumstances where we purchase the fertilizer product from third parties for resale, rather than manufacture the product at one of our facilities. For example, due to the high cost of natural gas in North America in late 2005, we decided to curtail production at our facilities and increase our purchases of fertilizer products originating from off-shore, lower cost producers for resale to our customers. Because it is generally not feasible to purchase fertilizer products from these third parties on a forward basis or match purchased quantities with specific order quantities, we may not be able to fix our profit margins effectively on fertilizer products that we buy for resale under our FPP. One method we use to reduce our margin exposure on sales of purchased products under the program is to purchase the required fertilizer products in advance of the specified delivery date. However, in such circumstances we may be required to buy and store the product sooner and in greater quantities than if produced, thereby reducing the liquidity benefits otherwise associated with the FPP. It also may not be feasible to purchase sufficient quantities of fertilizer in advance of the specified delivery dates at known, acceptable prices, thereby reducing or eliminating the expected margins associated with the forward sales. An increase in our purchases of fertilizer products for resale to our customers may increase our exposure to fluctuating profit margins on the purchased products and could have a material adverse affect on our operating results, liquidity and financial condition.
We also sell phosphate products through our FPP. In 2008, forward sales of phosphate fertilizer products represented approximately 61% of our phosphate fertilizer volume compared with 42% of our phosphate fertilizer volume in 2007 and 14% in 2006. Similar to nitrogen sales, phosphate sales under the FPP increased significantly in both 2007 and the first half of 2008 during a period of rapidly rising fertilizer prices. Unlike our nitrogen fertilizer products where we effectively fix the cost of natural gas, we typically are unable to fix the cost of phosphate raw materials, such as sulfur and ammonia, which are among the largest components of our phosphate fertilizer costs. As a result, we are typically exposed to margin risk on phosphate products sold on a forward basis.
A change in the use of the forward pricing program by our customers could increase our exposure to fluctuations in our profit margins and materially adversely affect our
In mid-2003, we implemented a forward pricing program (FPP). Through our FPP, we offer our customers the opportunity to