By Rod Nickel and Soham Chatterjee
Nov 5 (Reuters) - Canadian fertilizer company Agrium Inc reported on Tuesday a sharply lowerthird-quarter profit and a disappointing forecast for thecurrent fourth quarter.
Uncertainty in fertilizer markets, combined with a lateNorth America growing season caused many buyers to delay cropnutrient purchases, said Chief Executive Mike Wilson.
Potash prices have slipped since mid-summer, when thebiggest global producer Uralkali OAO quit its exportpartnership, Belarusian Potash Company (BPC), with Belaruskaliand said it would seek to maximize sales volumes.
BPC was one of the world's two biggest potash tradingcompanies, along with North America's Canpotex Ltd, owned byMosaic Co, Potash Corp of Saskatchewan Inc andAgrium.
Agrium's U.S.-listed shares eased 0.1 percent after normaltrading hours. They finished on Tuesday at $87.27.
The Calgary, Alberta-based company forecast fourth-quarterearnings of 80 cents to $1.25 per share, well below analysts'expectations of $1.51.
Outages at Agrium's Redwater, Alberta, and Carseland,Alberta, nitrogen facilities reduced product availability in thethird quarter and will also affect fourth-quarter sales volumes,Wilson said, adding that they will reduce fourth-quarterearnings by approximately 20 cents per share.
Net earnings for the third quarter fell 41 percent to $76million, or 52 cents per share, compared with $129 million, or80 cents per share, a year ago.
Adjusted earnings per share were $73 million, or 50 centsper share.
On that basis, analysts on average expected Agrium to earn57 cents a share in the third quarter, according to ThomsonReuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue for the company rose to $2.87 billion from $2.83billion, exceeding expectations for $2.82 billion.
Wholesale sales of nitrogen, potash and phosphate decreasedby 24 percent to $752 million due to lower realized sales pricesacross all products and the plant outages, Agrium said.
Agrium warned in September that its potash volumes wereexpected to be about 30 percent lower than normal in the thirdquarter.
Retail sales of products like fertilizer, chemicals and seedto farmers increased by 15 percent to $2.1 billion.
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