UPDATE 1-Agrium reports record profit, beats Street expectations

Thu Feb 21, 2013 7:08pm EST
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* Q4 net profit $2.34 per share vs $1.20 year ago

* Sales up 3 pct to $3.26 bln

* U.S. listed shares up 0.5 pct in extended trading

By Rod Nickel

Feb 21 (Reuters) - Canadian fertilizer company Agrium Inc reported a record profit for the fourth quarter on Thursday, handily beating expectations due to higher demand for crop protection products and fertilizer from farmers, ahead of a proxy battle with its largest shareholder.

Agrium shares in New York edged up 0.5 percent following the news, after falling nearly 2 percent to $106.84 during regular trading.

Agrium is facing a proxy contest in April with its biggest shareholder, Jana Partners, which wants to split the company's farm retail and wholesale fertilizer production divisions, and take other steps to improve the company's performance.

The Calgary, Alberta-based company said retail sales rose 8 percent to $2 billion due to higher demand for crop protection products and fertilizer, after autumn weather left U.S. farmers with a larger than normal window for applications before winter. The improved retail sales outweighed a 7 percent drop in wholesale sales of fertilizers, mainly because of weak international demand for potash.

A lack of potash exports to key markets China and India in the second half of 2012 hurt Agrium, Potash Corp of Saskatchewan and Mosaic Co, who collectively make offshore sales through Canpotex Ltd. Both countries have since signed new supply contracts with Canpotex.   Continued...