Agricultural nutrients maker Agrium Inc. (AGU: Quote, AGU.TO) on Wednesday reported a decline in profit for the first quarter, weighed down by expenses. Adjusted earnings topped Wall Street view.
Mike Wilson, Agrium President and CEO, said, "The benefits of Agrium's strong global position across the agricultural value chain were evident once again this quarter, as our Retail business capitalized on one of the earliest starts to the North American spring season in history."
Net earnings attributable to equity holders slid to $153 million or $0.97 per share from $172 million or $1.09 per share a year ago. Earnings from continuing operations was $1.02 per share last year.
The latest results included $0.06 per share on natural gas and other hedge positions and share-based payment expense of $0.29 per share.
Excluding items, net earnings would have been $210 million or $1.32 per share for the recent quarter.
On average, 21 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected the company to report earnings of $0.99 per share. Analysts' estimates typically exclude special items.
Sales grew to $3.63 billion from $2.95 billion in the prior-year quarter. Analysts estimated revenues of $2.98 billion.
Retail sales increased 35 percent to $2.5 billion, due to higher sales volumes in all major product lines. The business saw strong demand for crop input products and services within North America, in one of the earliest starts to the spring season in history.
Crop nutrient sales increased 46 percent to $1 billion as a result of higher sales volumes and increased nitrogen prices.
Crop protection sales climbed 31 percent to $834 million. Higher sales volumes were witnessed across a wide range of product lines in North America, including the private label Loveland products.
Wholesale sales remained stable at $1.2 billion due to higher selling prices. Agrium said its Wholesale results were the second highest on record for a first quarter, despite slow global demand for potash and phosphate.
Agrium noted that crop prices remain well above historical levels, providing a strong economic incentive for growers to optimize use of crop inputs to maximize their yields and profitability.
The company expects its Wholesale operations to benefit in the second quarter from rising nitrogen and falling North American natural gas prices.
The firm projects earnings of $5.50 to $6.10 per share for the first half of the year. This excludes hedging gains or losses and share-based payments expense in the first quarter results and estimated second quarter results.
AGU closed on Tuesday at $84.57, down from the previous close of $84.86, on a volume of 1.68 million shares.
AGU.TO settled at C$84.42, compared to C$84.25 in the previous session, on 1.01 million shares.
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by RTT Staff Writer
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