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By Rod Nickel
Aug 5 (Reuters) - North American nitrogen fertilizer producers Agrium Inc and CF Industries reported higher second-quarter profits on Wednesday after markets closed.
Agrium's quarterly profit beat expectations for the Canadian company, while earnings for Illinois-based CF matched the average estimate.
Agrium lowered the top end of its 2015 profit forecast to a range of $7.00 to $7.50 from $7.00 to $8.25 per share, due to the impact of low crop prices on farmers and second-half potash and phosphate prices that are expected to be lower than previous guidance.
U.S.-listed shares of Agrium, North America's biggest retail seller of seed, fertilizer and crop chemicals, eased after normal trading hours, while CF stock gained 1.5 percent.
Less U.S. planting this spring of corn, a crop that uses much fertilizer, wet weather in the U.S. corn belt and lower crop prices caused farmers to think twice about spending to maximize production. Dry conditions in Western Canada also hurt farmer spending on fertilizer, Agrium said.
Agrium's net earnings from continuing operations for the second quarter rose to $675 million, or $4.71 per share, from $625 million, or $4.34 per share a year ago.
On an adjusted basis, earnings were $701 million, or $4.90 per share. Analysts on average expected Agrium to earn $4.78 a share in the second quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Agrium sales fell to $6.99 billion from 7.3 billion, versus expectations for $7.3 billion.
CF's net earnings rose to $352 million or $1.49 per share from $313 million or $1.22 per share a year earlier.
Net nitrogen sales for the Deerfield, Illinois company fell to $1.31 billion from $1.45 billion.
Analysts had on average expected CF to earn $1.49 a share on sales of $1.3 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Chris Reese and Cynthia Osterman