Agrium says its results will feel impact of late spring season, plant shutdown

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CALGARY – Agrium Inc. (TSX:AGU) expects only a slim profit in the first quarter, just above the break-even point, due in part to a slow start to the spring planting season.

The Calgary-based fertilizer producer and farm-products retailer says the quarter will also be affected by a lag in wholesale prices for crop nutrients, reduced rail availability and an unexpected shutdown at its Carseland plant.

Agrium said a boiler failure at the plant on March 22 reduced the company’s availability of urea by approximately 100,000 tonnes and ammonia by approximately 20,000 tonnes in the second quarter of 2014.

The company expects to report its first-quarter results on May 6.

“Agrium will provide guidance for the second quarter with our first quarter results,” the company said in a statement.

“Agricultural fundamentals continue to improve and we anticipate a strong spring season which will benefit both retail and wholesale results in the second quarter.”

Analysts have been expecting Agrium’s profit for the first quarter of 2014 to be well above break-even, although down from a year ago.

Estimates indicate they have been expecting Agrium to report 56 cents US per share of earnings in the first quarter.

In the first quarter of 2013, Agrium had 94 cents US per share of net income under standard accounting and $1.03 per share of adjusted earnings.

Earlier this year, the company had said nasty winter weather was driving up costs at its potash mine expansion in Saskatchewan and making it more difficult for the fertilizer maker to transport its products to market.

A bitterly cold and snowy winter, combined with last year’s bumper crop of grain in Western Canada and several other factors, has led to a traffic jam on the railways.

Agrium shares closed down $1.45, or 1.35 per cent, at $106.09 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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