UPDATE 3-Agrium profit dives, outlook weaker; shares drop 10 pct

Wed Nov 7, 2012 2:39pm EST
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* Adjusted profit $1.34 a share vs $1.82 estimate

* Sales down 6 pct, retail business hurt by drought

* Sees 4th-qtr profit below analysts' view

* Activist shareholder Jana wants change (Updates with CEO interview, shareholder Jana comments)

By Rod Nickel

Nov 7 (Reuters) - Canadian fertilizer producer and farm-products retailer Agrium Inc reported a 56 percent drop in quarterly profit on Wednesday and offered a weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter outlook as key markets China and India balked at signing new contracts to buy the crop nutrient potash.

The company's performance in the third quarter was also hurt by downtime at Agrium's Saskatchewan potash mine and reduced sales of farm products due to the severe U.S. drought. Its shares dropped nearly 10 percent.

New contracts with India and China, the world's top two potash consumers, had been anticipated by late summer, but Agrium CEO Mike Wilson said a deal with China will now come by the first quarter of 2013, and one with India by the second quarter.

"If you look at the robust ag sector and what we have coming at us it doesn't warrant the (price) decreases that they're demanding," Wilson said in an interview with Reuters. "And given our cost to capital and costs of production, we need to resist these significant price decreases they're asking for."   Continued...