Agrium reports 26% decline in Q3 net profit; raises quarterly dividend 4%

CALGARY – Agrium Inc. (TSX:AGU) is increasing its quarterly dividend four per cent despite reporting a 26 per cent decline in third-quarter net earnings.

The Calgary-based global producer and marketer of fertilizer says net earnings fell to US$50 million or 35 cents per diluted share from US$76 million or 52 cents per share in the comparable 2013 period

Revenue rose four per cent to US$2.92 billion from $2.796 billion.

The latest results included pre-tax share-based payments expenses and net losses on foreign exchange and derivative positions of US$31 million, as well as a one-time recognition of a previously unrecognized tax benefit of $29-million.

Agrium’s 2014 third quarter net earnings from continuing operations were US$91 million or 63 cents per diluted per share, up from $80-million 54 cents in the same 2013 quarter.

“Agrium’s business once again proved resilient delivering solid results this quarter despite challenging agricultural market conditions,” president and CEO Chuck Magro said, noting that “near perfect growing conditions across the U.S., combined with low crop prices, reduced demand for some crop protection products.”

Although the company’s wholesale division achieved strong performance from its phosphate and nitrogen businesses, results in the second half “have been impacted by major planned turnarounds at our Vanscoy potash and Redwater nitrogen facilities,” Magro said.

“These projects will complete essential work to further strengthen Agrium’s competitive position and deliver significant additional free cash flow in the coming years,” he said.

Meanwhile, Agrium said it will increase its quarterly payout three cents to 78 cents US per common share beginning Jan. 21 to shareholders of record on Dec. 31.

“The further increase in our dividend is a demonstration of our confidence in our strategy, and our commitment to shareholder returns,” Magro said.

“We are confident of our ability to generate significant cash flow in the future and we maintain a positive long-term outlook for the agriculture industry.”