(Adds sales details, share prices)
By Rod Nickel
May 6 Canada's Agrium Inc
reported on Tuesday a steep drop in first-quarter profit, hurt
by a colder than usual winter across North America and a drop in
As the cold weather caused transportation problems and
delayed spring planting in some areas, net earnings from
continuing operations for the first quarter fell to $12 million,
or 8 cents per share, from $146 million, or 98 cents per share a
"Agrium's first quarter is traditionally our seasonally
lowest earnings quarter and this was exacerbated this year by
the record cold winter across North America," Chief Executive
Chuck Magro said. "However, farmer sentiment is positive this
spring and we are now seeing good demand for crop input products
Agrium forecast earnings of $3.85 to $4.35 per share for the
busy second quarter, weakened by a March 22 outage at its
Carseland, Alberta nitrogen facility. Analysts on average had
The plant shutdown is likely to cut second-quarter
availability of urea by about 130,000 tonnes, and of ammonia by
about 30,000 tonnes.
Agrium is North America's biggest retail seller of seed,
fertilizer and chemicals directly to farmers and also produces
nitrogen, potash and phosphate fertilizer. The frigid winter and
a record-large Canadian harvest last autumn overwhelmed Canadian
railways that also transport the potash Agrium produces.
Excluding one-time items, earnings from continuing
operations were $11 million, or 7 cents per share. On that
basis, analysts on average had expected 5 cents a share in the
first quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Sales eased 2 percent to $3.08 billion, topping expectations
for $3.01 billion.
Agrium's U.S.-listed shares edged higher to $96 after normal
The Calgary, Alberta-based company warned in April that
reduced railway availability and a late start to spring planting
would hit its first-quarter earnings hard. Agrium estimated
per-share earnings for the quarter ended March 31 at just above
Agrium's fertilizer rivals, Potash Corp of Saskatchewan
and Mosaic Co - which sell potash overseas with
Agrium through their jointly owned Canpotex - have also reported
sharply lower quarterly earnings. Earlier on Tuesday, Mosaic
posted a 43 percent drop in profit, due to weaker potash and
phosphate prices, and said it would cut 500 jobs.
Agrium sold 876,000 tonnes of wholesale nitrogen products
during the quarter, up 6 percent from a year ago, at an average
selling price that was 16 percent lower, at $438 per tonne.
Domestic potash sales volumes climbed 47 percent to 292,000
tonnes due to pent up demand from the fourth quarter. However,
international sales fell 24 percent to 136,000 tonnes because of
difficulties moving potash to West Coast ports.
(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by
David Gregorio and Richard Chang)