Agrium profit beats Street, helped by higher grain prices

(Dave Bedard photo)

Reuters — Fertilizer and farm retail dealer Agrium 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 two per cent in after-hours trading.

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

Calgary-based 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 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 non-core businesses as it aimed to find $475 million in savings by 2017.

The fourth-largest global producer of nitrogen sold 879,000 tonnes of wholesale nitrogen products in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, down three per cent from a year ago.

Domestic potash sales volumes fell 94 per cent to 19,000 tonnes as the expansion project at its Vanscoy, Sask. 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 per cent 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 for Reuters by Rohit T.K. in Bangalore; additional reporting for Reuters by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg.

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