February 24, 2015 / 12:22 AM / 4 years ago

Canada's Agrium profit beats Street helped by higher grain prices

(Reuters) - Canadian fertilizer and farm retail dealer Agrium Inc AGU.TO reported a better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit helped by higher prices for most grains and oilseeds.

The company also forecast 2015 profit to be $7 to $8.50 per share. Analysts on average expect a profit of $7.55 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Agrium’s U.S.-listed shares rose 2 percent in after-hours trading.

Prices of corn, wheat and soybean rose in the fourth quarter, despite a decreasing commodity price environment, the company said.

Agrium is North America’s biggest retail seller of seed, fertilizer and chemicals directly to farmers and is also a producer of nitrogen, potash and phosphate fertilizer.

Rival CF Industries Holdings Inc (CF.N) on Tuesday reported lower fourth-quarter profit and said costs of its nitrogen capacity expansion had risen by 10 percent.

Agrium, in November, said it would cut 500 jobs and look to sell several noncore businesses as it aimed to find $475 million in savings by 2017.

The fourth-largest global producer of nitrogen sold 879 tonnes of wholesale nitrogen products in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, down 3 percent from a year ago.

Domestic potash sales volumes fell 94 percent to 19 tonnes as the expansion project at its Vanscoy, Saskatchewan, potash mine limited sales, the company said.

Agrium completed the expansion of the mine in December and is ramping up production.

Net earnings for the fourth quarter fell to $51 million, or 33 cents per share, from $99 million, or 66 cents per share a year ago.

Excluding one-time items, the company earned 77 cents per share.

Revenue fell 5.6 percent to $2.71 billion.

Analysts on average expected a profit of 61 cents and revenue of $2.93 billion.

Agrium’s shares closed at $138.02 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Monday.

Reporting by Rohit T.K. in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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