UPDATE 1-Agrium quarterly profit disappoints; boosts dividend 12 pct

Tue May 5, 2015 8:26pm EDT
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(Adds outlook change, CEO comment and share activity)

May 5 (Reuters) - Canadian fertilizer and farm retail dealer Agrium Inc on Tuesday reported a first-quarter profit that fell short of expectations, due in part to a late start to the U.S. spring farming season.

The company said it would boost its dividend by 12 percent to $3.50 per share annually.

Calgary, Alberta-based Agrium is North America's biggest retail seller to farmers of inputs including seed, chemicals and fertilizer. Planting season got off to a slow start in the eastern and southern United States, but has recently accelerated, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday reported U.S. corn plantings were ahead of the five-year average pace.

"All indications are that Agrium will deliver strong second-quarter results on solid crop input demand now that the spring application season is fully under way," Chief Executive Chuck Magro said in a statement.

Agrium trimmed the top end of its 2015 profit forecast, to a range of $7.00 to $8.25 per share, from $7 to $8.50 per share previously. The company said the revision reflects pressure on global urea prices from higher Chinese exports.

Agrium's U.S.-listed shares fell 2 percent after normal trading hours. They had earlier closed down 0.9 percent.

Net earnings for the first quarter rose to $14 million, or 8 cents per share, from $3 million, or 2 cents per share, a year ago.

On an adjusted basis, earnings were $19 million, or 12 cents per share. Analysts on average expected Agrium to earn 33 cents a share in the first quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sales fell 7 percent to $2.9 billion, versus expectations for $3.145 billion. (Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Leslie Adler)