CALGARY, ALBERTA -- Agrium Inc. announced today a net loss for the first quarter of $60 million ($0.38 diluted loss per share), compared with the net earnings of $195 million in the first quarter of 2008 ($1.23 diluted earnings per share).



The first quarter results include non-qualifying natural gas and power hedge losses of $69 million ($0.30 diluted loss per share) and a $10 million ($0.04 diluted loss per share) expense in stock-based compensation in the quarter. The results also include an inventory write-down of $18 million ($0.08 diluted loss per share) associated with our Wholesale purchase for resale business. Excluding these items our net earnings would have been $7 million ($0.04 diluted earnings per share).



"Spring applications have now commenced in all of our North American markets and the outlook for our business is strong. The first quarter is traditionally our weakest quarter, as we build inventories in preparation for the spring season. This year's results were also impacted by the drop in potash demand, a short-term squeeze on retail nutrient margins and the late spring. The decrease in potash volumes versus 2008 and the costs associated with production curtailments resulted in reduction in gross profit of approximately $180 million. We anticipate demand for potash to recover in the second half of 2009," said Mike Wilson, Agrium President and CEO.



"Retail crop nutrient margins were impacted by the significant decline in nitrogen and phosphate prices in the fourth quarter of 2008, but we expect our margins will recover as we move through the spring season. The strength of our crop protection and seed sales will continue to be evident this year, and despite lower than average crop nutrient margins in the first half of 2009 we expect EBITDA from our retail business to be close to one-half billion dollars in 2009."



With respect to Agrium's proposal to acquire CF Industries Holdings, Inc., Wilson stated:



"We remain fully committed to acquiring CF and will continue to seek discussions with CF for a mutually beneficial transaction that delivers additional value for our respective shareholders. We have repeatedly advised CF and its shareholders that we would be prepared to increase our offer further if CF can demonstrate additional value."



Agrium is providing guidance for the second quarter of 2009 of $1.70 to $2.10 diluted earnings per share, or $2.00 to $2.40 diluted earnings per share excluding estimated hedging losses and stock based compensation expense.



SOURCE: Agrium.