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June 7 (Reuters) - Fertilizer producer and retailer Agrium Inc more than doubled its semi-annual dividend o n Thursday, underscoring its belief in its long-term profitability.
Calgary, Alberta-based Agrium, which is also North America’s largest farm products retailer, raised its dividend to 50 cents a share, from a prior payout of 22.5 cents a share.
The latest increase comes less than six months after Agrium quadrupled the semi-annual dividend payout.
“The further increase in our dividend is an indication of the strength in our earnings outlook across both our retail and wholesale operations,” said Chief Executive Mike Wilson in a statement.
The new semi-annual dividend will be paid on July 12 to shareholders of record on July 1.
Agrium said it remains confident it can achieve its growth objectives, while also potentially boosting its return of capital to shareholders down the road.
Agrium, one of the world’s top producers of nitrogen-based fertilizers like urea and ammonia, is investing about $1.5 billion to expand its potash production capacity and capitalize on rising demand for the crop nutrient in the face of rising grain consumption in emerging economies like China and India.
Agrium is also expanding its farm retail network rapidly. Earlier this year it agreed to acquire the bulk of Viterra Inc’s retail assets for C$1.65 billion ($1.60 billion), in a side deal with Glencore International PLC, which is acquiring Viterra primarily for its grain handling assets.
Agrium shares have risen 17 percent this year, despite concerns about slowing growth in Asia and Europe. Agrium shares closed at C$80.43 on Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange, while its U.S.-listed shares closed at $78.21.
$1 = 1.0333 Canadian dollars Reporting By Euan Rocha in Toronto and Shounak Dasgupta in Bangalore; Editing by Janet Guttsman