UPDATE 2-Agrium profit slips, gives weaker-than-expected outlook
By Rod Nickel
May 9 (Reuters) - Agrium Inc , the Canadian fertilizer company, reported lower quarterly profit on Thursday, as cold, wet spring weather delayed plantings in the United States, and forecast weaker-than-expected earnings for the current quarter.
U.S. plantings of corn, a fertilizer-intensive crop, were just 12 percent complete as May 5, the slowest pace since 1984, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Monday. However more favorable weather was expected.
Agrium Chief Executive Mike Wilson said farmers have a shortened spring season for applying fertilizer, but still expects strong demand for crop inputs in the first half.
"It seems (they're) trying to be a bit cautious given the late planting in the U.S.," said John Chu, analyst at AltaCorp Capital. "The risk can be if farmers switch from planting corn to soybeans, which is a pretty big switch in the amount of nitrogen that's going to be used."
Along with selling products to farmers, Calgary, Alberta-based Agrium is a major producer of nitrogen and potash fertilizers.
Agrium, which recently fended off its largest shareholder, Jana Partners, in a proxy battle over its retail division, said it expects a second-quarter profit of $4.60 to $5.40 per share. The midpoint of that range is $5, lower than the average analyst expectation for $5.29.
The company also said it would buy back up to 5 percent of its stock. Continued...