Strong retail demand boosts Agrium results

Wed May 9, 2012 10:55am EDT
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By Euan Rocha

(Reuters) - Fertilizer producer and retailer Agrium Inc AGU.TO reported better-than-expected quarterly results on Wednesday, driven by a strong performance in its farm retail segment and strong sales of its nitrogen-based crop nutrient products.

Calgary, Alberta-based Agrium, North America's biggest farm-products retailer, said early spring weather in Canada and the United States boosted sales of fertilizers, crop-protection products and seeds in the quarter, resulting in a 35 percent increase in sales in its retail business.

Results from its wholesale arm were weighed down by lower sales volumes of potash- and phosphate-based nutrients, but the segment benefited from higher realized prices and volumes for nitrogen-based fertilizers such as ammonia and urea.

"The benefits of Agrium's strong global position across the agricultural value chain were evident once again this quarter," Chief Executive Mike Wilson said. "Favorable weather has enabled growers to get a very early start on spring planting ... We have seen strong movement of nutrients and other crop inputs."

Excluding one-time items, the company forecast earnings per share of between $5.50 and $6.10 for the first half of 2012. The mid-point of that range is $5.80 a share, which is above the current Wall Street consensus of $5.67 a share for the period, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.


Excluding a pretax loss on natural gas hedging and a pretax share-based payment expense, the company reported first-quarter earnings of $210 million, or $1.32 a share.

Quarterly sales rose 23 percent to $3.63 billion.   Continued...