Agrium returns to profitability in first-quarter

by World Grain Staff
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CALGARY, ALBERTA, CANADA — Agrium Inc. announced on May 4 consolidated net earnings of $171 million or $1.09 per share for the first quarter of 2011, compared with a consolidated net loss of $1 million or 1¢ per share at the same time last year.

Net earnings from continuing operations, which exclude earnings associated with AWB Limited (AWB) Commodity Management business which is under a definitive sales agreement to Cargill were $160 million or $1.02 per share for the first quarter of 2011.The 2011 first quarter results include a pre-tax share-based payment expense of $12 million or 5¢ per share and pre-tax gains of $9 million or 4¢ per share on natural gas and other commodity hedges.

Excluding these items, net earnings from continuing operations would have been $162 million or $1.03 per share from continuing operations for the first quarter of 2011.

“Record high crop prices and overall strong fundamentals for agriculture and the crop input market provided the basis for Agrium’s outstanding quarter, particularly in light of a slow start to the spring season. Crop nutrient demand was strong in North America and globally, providing underlying support to crop nutrient prices. This contributed to our Wholesale business achieving its best first quarter ever. The same strong fundamentals also supported results for our Retail operations, as they reported substantial increases across all product lines,” said Agrium President and Chief Executive Officer Mike Wilson. “Our newly acquired Landmark retail business in Australia delivered solid results and managed through the challenges of 2010’s flooding in Eastern Australia. The significant increase in acreage devoted to input intensive crops such as corn and cotton is expected to benefit all three of our business units this spring. With the strength in markets across most products and services, we expect a great second quarter and believe industry fundamentals will remain strong in 2011.”

Agrium is providing guidance for the first half of 2011 of $4.40 to $4.90 diluted earnings per share on continuing operations.
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