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Agrium Inc. (AGU - Analyst Report) expects earnings per share in the first quarter of 2014 to be just above breakeven due to the late arrival of the spring season in 2014. The current Zacks Consensus Estimate for the first quarter is 53 cents.

The late start of the spring season will impact the wholesale earnings as well as to some extent the retail earnings. The wholesale results will also be affected by a decline in rail availability as well as a lag in realized wholesale nutrient prices.

However, in the second quarter 2014, Agrium expects agricultural fundamentals to improve and forecasts a strong spring season which will benefit both retail and wholesale results.

Agrium also stated that there will be an unplanned shutdown to fix the auxiliary boiler in the Carseland nitrogen facility that experienced a failure on Mar 22. This is expected to be complete in the second half of May. The company further announced that the shutdown is expected to result in lower product availability of urea by about 100,000 tons and ammonia by roughly 20,000 tons in the second quarter of 2014.

Agrium, a prominent fertilizer company along with Mosaic (MOS - Analyst Report), and Potash Corp. (POT - Analyst Report) released its fourth-quarter 2013 results in Feb 2014. The company’s earnings from continuing operations in the reported quarter dropped 69.3% year over year to $110 million or 74 cents per share from earnings from continuing operations of $358 million or $2.37 per share a year ago.

Excluding one-time items other than stock-based payment costs, adjusted earnings of 72 cents per share missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 88 cents.

Agrium logged revenues of $2,867 million in the reported quarter, down roughly 7% year over year. Sales declined due to a 24% drop in wholesale sales as a result of lower realized prices across all product lines and lower nitrogen volumes, partly offset by increased retail sales due to the Viterra acquisition. Sales missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $3,037 million.

Agrium, which currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold), is slated to release its first quarter results on May 6, 2014.

Another company in the fertilizer industry worth considering is Scotts Miracle-Gro (SMG - Snapshot Report), carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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