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Potash Corp.'s mine in Rocanville, Sask.

Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. raised its first-quarter earnings guidance on Thursday due to a sharp rebound in potash demand.

The company said it now expects to earn between $1.30 and $1.50 per share for first three months of the year, up from earlier guidance of 70 cents to $1 per share.

The guidance compared with a profit of $1.02 per share in the first three months of 2009.

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Potash Corp. said it expected strong North American sales volumes and offshore shipments, as well as higher-than-expected margins in nitrogen and phosphate.

"Strong farmer returns, a depleted distributor pipeline and the agronomic need to replace soil nutrients have kick-started a potash rebound from 2009 lows," said Potash Corp. president and chief executive officer Bill Doyle.

"While we know that growth does not follow a straight upward line, we believe the increase in potash sales volumes this quarter represents the beginning of a return to long-term growth in demand."

The company said any revisions to its annual guidance will be addressed when it reports its first-quarter earnings on April 29.

Last month, Canpotex, a partnership representing Saskatchewan's three main fertilizer producers, agreed to sell 350,000 tonnes of potash to a Chinese buyer at "competitive" spot prices.

Canpotex, markets and distributes potash internationally on behalf of Agrium Inc. , Potash Corp. and Mosaic Co.

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With the spot sale to Sinofert, all of the production marketed by Canpotex has been fully committed through the first quarter of 2010.

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