By Rod Nickel
Feb 20 Canadian fertilizer company Agrium Inc
reported a 72 percent decline in quarterly
profit on Thursday as crop nutrient prices fell and nitrogen
sales volumes weakened.
Calgary, Alberta-based Agrium, the third-largest global
producer of nitrogen and a major North American potash producer,
said crop nutrient sales had slipped due to cold weather during
a period when U.S. farmers usually apply fertilizer to fields
Grain prices dropped off year-over-year, taking fertilizer
prices down with them. Global potash prices were further thrown
into a tailspin last year after Russia's Uralkali OAO
broke away from its joint venture with Belaruskali in July,
sparking competition between producers that had previously
maintained a high discipline on pricing.
Net earnings for Agrium's fourth quarter fell to $99
million, or 66 cents per share, from $354 million, or $2.34 per
share, a year ago.
Net earnings from continuing operations, excluding its
purchase of Viterra Inc farm retail outlets, were $126 million
or 87 cents per share. The company on Jan. 20 warned earnings
from continuing operations would be at the lower end of its
guidance of 80 cents to $1.25 per share.
On that basis, analysts on average had expected Agrium to
earn 86 cents a share in the fourth quarter, according to
Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue for the company dipped seven percent to $2.9 billion
versus expectations for $2.975 billion.
Agrium's U.S.-listed shares edged up 0.5 percent to $89.26
after normal trading hours.
The company sold 907,000 tonnes of wholesale nitrogen
products at an average selling price of $458 per tonne, versus
sales of 966,000 tonnes at an average price of $561 a year ago.
Agrium sold 344,000 tonnes of wholesale potash at an average
price of $313 per tonne, slightly more than the 341,000 tonnes
sold a year ago but at a much lower price than the average $449
Agrium's retail sales to farmers, which include fertilizer,
seed and chemicals, climbed 6 percent to $2.1 billion.
Rival nitrogen producer CF Industries Holdings Inc
posted on Tuesday a fourth-quarter profit that declined 31
percent, but the drop from record-high earnings a year earlier
was not as steep as analysts had expected.