Winter just doesn’t seem to want to give way to spring this year. Where I live, we’ve been hit with more snow and a continuation of this cold winter. Frustrations with the late spring are beginning to boil over and cabin fever has gotten so bad that our beloved Punxsutawney Phil has been indicted after a botched forecast of an early spring.
Not only has the late spring caused a lot of ire among those ready for winter’s end, it’s also causing natural gas prices to head higher. While that’s a welcome sight for producers, heavy users of natural gas are not as thrilled. While these companies have enjoyed the profits made while using cheap natural gas, if prices keep going higher the situation will reverse. Here are three companies that could feel an impact if natural gas prices keep going higher.
CF Industries Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:CF)
The fertilizer maker is a heavy user of natural gas as a feedstock in fertilizer production. It has benefited handsomely from cheap natural gas, which drove record sales and earnings last year. It’s also betting big that natural gas prices will stay low by investing $3.8 billion to expand its operations.
The company is anticipating a very positive operating environment for the year ahead, highlighted by favorable natural gas costs. However, as of its last earnings report it had only hedged its natural gas needs through April of this year. A steady rise in price could affect its bottom line, and the same can be said for its publicly traded subsidiary Terra Nitrogen Company, L.P. (NYSE:TNH) . The volatility of natural gas prices is a big risk to its results and has a real effect on the bottom line: The company’s net earnings last year jumped to $560.8 million from $508 million in 2011, with a 23% realized decrease in natural gas prices.
The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE:DOW)
Dow also has big plans for cheap natural gas. The company has committed more than $4 billion to expand nat-gas use as a feedstock for the production of chemicals and plastics. Among its planned expenditures is a world-scale ethane cracker plant that comes with a $1.7 billion price tag.
For The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE:DOW), it sees the potential for these projects to deliver $2.5 billion in annual EBITDA when everything is up and running in 2017. The key to hitting that target is continued low natural gas prices. While Dow has been vocal in its disapproval of increased liquefied natural gas exports, which would raise gas prices, there’s not much it can do to stop Mother Nature from driving prices higher.