* CEO Borgas stepping down after 4 years
* Potash prices roughly halved during his term
* Deals signed with China, India for $219 and $227 per tonne
* COO Asher Brinbaum named as interim CEO
(Recasts with appointment of interim CEO)
By Steven Scheer
JERUSALEM, Sept 11 Israel Chemicals (ICL)
on Sunday named Asher Grinbaum as interim chief
executive officer after Stefan Borgas stepped down as CEO last
German-born Borgas, 52, said last Thursday he would resign
after four years as CEO but would stay available to the company
and Chairman Johanan Locker during the transition to find a new
Grinbaum, currently ICL's executive vice president and chief
operating officer, will fill the CEO role effective immediately
until a permanent CEO is appointed.
ICL is one of three major suppliers of potash to
China, India and Europe.
Analysts said the eventual successor will struggle to revive
earnings given weak global prices for potash, its main export.
"You can't expect higher profit when potash prices are $200
a tonne," said Ilanit Scherf, an analyst at the Psagot
Borgas had served as CEO of Swiss firm Lonza before joining
ICL. Potash prices were then around $414 per tonne, ICL's share
price was 46 shekels and it reported adjusted earnings per share
of $1.19 in 2011.
But in recent months, ICL has signed potash supply deals
with China and Indian customers at $219 and $227 a tonne,
Citi analyst Andrew Benson expects adjusted EPS in 2016 of
just 30 cents.
"ICL faces a tough road ahead although this is substantially
discounted in the share price," Benson, who rates ICL "neutral",
wrote in a note to clients. The "fertiliser markets will remain
intensely competitive over the medium term (and) ... higher
royalty levels will materially reduce cash flow availability for
shareholders from 2017 onwards."
Since the start of 2013, ICL's Tel Aviv-listed share price
has slid 85 percent to 15.42 shekels.
Borgas also battled Israel's government over plans to
sharply increase taxes on mining companies. He tried to cut
costs, froze about $2 billion of investments in Israel and
expanded ICL's operations abroad.
Analysts say Borgas' desire to reduce dependency on the Dead
Sea, where ICL has exclusive permits to mine minerals, was
unpopular with his bosses at holding company Israel Corp
, which owns 46 percent of ICL.
Citi's Benson said ICL's next CEO will need to improve
industrial relations after two recent strikes and establish a
better relationship with Israel's government.
ICL competes with Russia's Uralkali and North
American trading group Canpotex Ltd, owned by Potash Corp of
Saskatchewan, Mosaic Co and Agrium Inc
(Reporting by Steven Scheer; editing by Susan Thomas/Ruth