Agrium swings to loss in quarter on low prices

CALGARY — Higher energy costs and lower phosphate prices helped swing fertilizer giant Agrium Inc. (TSX:AGU) to a worse than expected net loss for the first quarter.

The results, reported Monday in U.S. dollars, showed an $11-million net loss or $0.08 per share, compared with net earnings of $2-million or $0.02 per share for the same quarter last year.

Analysts had expected a slightly better quarter, with a consensus complied by Thomson Reuters looking for a $7.7-million loss and $0.07 cents per share.

The company said earnings were hit in part by phosphate prices, which dropped to US$466 per tonne in the quarter, compared with US$589 per tonne for the same quarter last year.

The first quarter is generally slower for the fertilizer industry, with analysts expecting full year earnings of $744 million or $5.35 per share for Agrium.

The Calgary-based company continues to work towards its merger with Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. (TSX:POT), with an expected mid-year close.

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