Incitec Pivot moves to tap into US shale gas boom
Chemicals producer Incitec Pivot will take advantage of the boom in American shale gas, with a new $US850 million ($820 million) ammonia plant in the US.
The project marks a change in strategy for the company, which has been hurt by the high dollar, local plant outages and the slump in coal.
Incitec Pivot manufactures explosives and fertiliser inputs for the agriculture and mining sectors and is reliant on gas for production.
Chief executive James Fazzino said the boom in shale had enabled a "step change" in US gas prices.
"[The plant] takes our North American business and any future expansions back to US gas economics," he said. "This is vital to this project because 80 per cent of the cost of making ammonia is gas."
Incitec Pivot shares were at six-month lows on Wednesday, after analysts downgraded their forecasts before the company's half-year results next month. The company will use debt and cash flows to finance the plant, with production scheduled to begin in 2016.
Mr Fazzino said construction of the plant, at Cornerstone Chemical's brownfield site in Waggaman, Louisiana, could begin in six weeks.
He said he was confident US gas prices would remain competitive despite new export projects.
"The US has got 25 years of gas at current prices. LNG is not going to move the dial," he said.
RBS Morgans analyst Belinda Moore said the project was expected to generate strong returns in the long run, but immediate headwinds would weaken results.
Incitec Pivot shares fell 5¢, or 1.7 per cent, to close at $2.84.