K+S CEO Says German Public Support for Industry Is in Decline

K+S AG Chief Executive Officer Norbert Steiner said public support for industrial projects is in decline in a speech today to shareholders of the German potash maker, which has faced environmental protests over its mines.

“Resistance is guaranteed” for projects such as power lines, railway stations and roads, the CEO said. Some people “harbor a general suspicion about us as an industrial company in that we are said to be plundering nature, ruthlessly pursuing our economic interests in a way that runs counter to the public good,” he told shareholders at the meeting in Kassel, where the company is based.

Europe’s largest potash maker has faced protests from environmental groups in the central German state of Thuringia, where its mines discharge saline water into the Werra River. Steiner said today that a package of measures, including an evaporation system, will cut saline waste water by 90 percent by the end of the year, a goal that had been set for the end of 2015.

K+S today reported first-quarter earnings that beat analyst estimates after wintry weather in Europe boosted demand for de-icing salt. Earnings before interest and taxes and excluding some hedging transactions, called Ebit I, rose 12 percent to 277.9 million euros ($361.5 billion). Analysts had forecast 274.9 million euros in a Bloomberg survey.

Sales Gain

Sales in the first three months gained 19 percent to 1.28 billion euros, beating a 1.23 billion-euro estimate in a Bloomberg survey. Net income fell 11 percent to 187.5 million euros.

K+S shares slipped 0.1 percent in Frankfurt trading to 34.94 euros as of 12:25 p.m. local time. The stock is unchanged since the start of the year for a market value of 6.7 billion euros.

The company reiterated today that earnings and sales will probably rise “slightly” this year as increased demand for salt more than compensates for lower potash prices. K+S and rivals such as Russia’s OAO Eurochem plan to increase capacity for the crop nutrient as prices are expected to stabilize.

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