November 4, 2014 / 1:43 AM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 1-Agrium's quarterly profit gets boost from Viterra retail centers

(Adds forecast, analyst estimates, details, background)

Nov 3 (Reuters) - Canadian fertilizer and farm retail dealer Agrium Inc reported third-quarter profit beating Wall Street expectations as it continued to benefit from sales from Viterra Inc’s retail centers.

The company’s retail sales jumped 9 percent to $2.3 billion in the third quarter from $2.1 billion for the same period last year due to the contribution from the acquired Viterra operations.

“The results from the acquired Viterra agri-retail operations added incremental gross profit this quarter and surpassed expected earnings contribution for the year-to-date,” the company said in a statement on Monday.

Excluding items, net earnings from continuing operations were $87 million, or 60 cents per share, well above average analysts’ expectations of 49 cents per share.

Agrium completed the acquisition of Viterra assets in Canada in October 2013 and acquired 13 locations in Australia in June.

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.

Activist hedge fund ValueAct Capital on Oct. 24 disclosed it had bought a 5.7 percent stake in Agrium, one and a half years after the Canadian fertilizer maker won a proxy battle aimed at breaking up the company.

Agrium forecast earnings from continuing operations of 45 to 75 cents per share, excluding items, for the fourth quarter.

Analysts on average had expected the company to earn 74 cents per share in the fourth quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company also raised its dividend by four percent to a total of $3.12 per share on an annualized basis.

Net earnings from continuing operations for the quarter ended Sept. 30 rose to $91 million, or 63 cents per share, from $80 million, or 54 cents per share a year ago.

Total sales rose 4.3 percent to $2.92 billion, slightly above analysts estimates of $2.97 billion. (Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in Bangalore; Editing by Chris Reese and Diane Craft)

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