Potash a High-Flying Mystery

“Buy potash, buy potash!” This mantra is shouted on the trading floors of the largest Bay St. brokerage houses, heard above the clinking of glasses at the traders’ post-closing bell bars, and even whispered amidst the furious mouse clicks of all those daytrading hobbyists (“oops, uh, Timmy? Forget college…”) on eTrade, iTrade, (heTrades, sheTrades, weallTrade for nice green), Scottrade and a dozen other do-it-your-self portals, playing the markets as they do when they really should be working. Trading as “POT” (no, not that kind) on the TSX and NYSE, four years ago the price was at $5. Now? $150 and climbing.

But what is Potash? Apparently, one has to know only one thing: it is the Next Big Thing.

“I really missed the boat on Nortel,” said Guss L. Ebel, “my neighbor urged me to get in on the easy money when it was at $140, but I wouldn’t listen. I stopped following the stock after that and I don’t really know where my neighbor is now, but I got a letter from his grandma’s house that said he’s doing great. I’m never gonna make that mistake again. Every dollar I have in the world is in this Potash thing.”

Asked as to what exactly the public company “PotashCorp” does, Guss replied, “They make potash, obviously.” Asked as to what potash is, Guss thought a moment, before replying with all the certitude he could muster, “It’s a key commodity input for cell phones, only found in Africa. Without it you can’t make the screen.”

Informed that PotashCorp was actually the “Potash Corporation of Sasketchewan,” Guss modified his answer with, “Well, Africa and Saskatchewan.” Then, irritatedly, Guss informed us, “But it doesn’t matter what they do, it only matters what the stock will do. And everyone knows this one’s headin’ for the moon! …Now get off my lawn.”

We at The Toronto Thymes then decided to check with an expert; so we headed downtown for an interview with a star trader at one of the big banks.

“PotashCorp does make potash, but it has nothing to do with cell phones,” William A. Spaulding Patrick III informed us authoritatively over $17 cocktails at trendy flake-hangout Bymark, “It has to do with China and India. Did you know that China and India are, uh, like the biggest countries in the world?”

We had to admit that yes, we kind of did know that, but William moved on without us.

After a quick glug of his martini, William leaned in closely, as if he were sharing a great secret, and whispered, “So is Brazil.” He then excused himself for his third trip to the restroom in 45 minutes, so we had to wait a few moments and flirt with the waitress until we could drop our final question, “What is Potash, as in the company, and what do they do regarding potash, as in the substance, and, finally, what exactly is potash?”

William began talking a mile-a-minute at this point, so great (we assumed) was his excitement over this lucrative “play.”

“Potash mines potash, but potash is just a rock, see? This kind of rock only out in Sasketchewan, but the thing is, the Chinese think this rock is ‘lucky’! A baby born in the presence of this rock is thought to achieve great things. Same with the Indians! And the Brazilians!! And the best part is, PotashCorp has the power of the government on its side, so it will never get bought by a foreign company, nor will they allow too much of the rock to be mined and exported, lest we don’t have enough of the rock since it may indeed actually be lucky, and while open markets are important and everything, one has to preserve his own luckiness.”

William stared at us for a few moments before adding, “Get it??”

We did not.

“Think of it like a lucky rabbit’s foot,” he said.  William intently scanned the other patrons at the bar for a moment, then confided, “I have to return some videotapes,” and left.

At this point the busboy came by and, as he cleared away our Pepsi glass and William’s 14 martini glasses, he whispered conspiratorially, “Potash is some kind of fertilizer and it’s really good and really rare. Like Kobe beef.  Makes the wheat reaaaaal tasty. It’s true, all those Chinese and Indians are gonna love it,” finished up, and left for the back kitchen.

Who to believe? We went with William, because while people like cellphones and love food; they need their magic rocks.

Besides, he’s an expert.

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