December 10, 2008 / 2:10 PM / 10 years ago

Agrium lowers production, but to meet 2008 outlook

TORONTO, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Agrium Inc AGU.TO curtailed production at a number of its North American nitrogen operations, but said it still expected earnings per share for the second half of 2008 to be within its previously announced range.

The world’s third-largest nitrogen producer said it has shut-in production at its Fort Saskatchewan nitrogen facility and also curtailed production at other major nitrogen and phosphate plants in North America.

Agrium blamed falling nutrient and crop prices since early November and the deferral of wholesale nutrient purchases for the moves. It said this has resulted in sales volume reductions and production curtailments that will affect earnings contributions from its wholesale business unit.

But it said it still expected to be within its previously announced range of between $3.30 and $4.00 per share. It added that reduced wholesale volumes and pricing, coupled with expected inventory valuation adjustments in its wholesale purchase for resale business, could reduce its results from operations by as much as 15 percent below the low end of its range.

Agrium and rival producer Potash Corp of Saskatchewan POT.TO POT.TO have long expected a slower fourth quarter and into the early stages of 2009 as farmers delay their fertilizing plans.

Potash Corp said on Tuesday it planned to reduce 2009 potash output by 2 million tonnes, or about 20 percent, due to slackening market demand. ($1=$1.26 Canadian) (Reporting by Scott Anderson, editing by Dave Zimmerman)

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