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Low selling prices push down Agrium's Q1'16 net earnings

Agrium Inc.'snet earnings attributable to equity holders for the first quarter dropped to US$2million, or 2 cents per share, from US$12 million, or 8 cents per share, in thesame period in 2015.

"The reduction in net earnings was driven by weaker sellingprices across all nutrients," the Alberta-based fertilizer supplier said May3. "This was largely offset by excellent results achieved from our retail operationsand strong wholesale operational performance."

Total sales slipped to US$2.73 billion from US$2.87 billion.

Sales from the company's retail operations improved to US$2.29billion from US$2.26 billion, primarily due to higher crop protection product andseed sales from early spring application season and increased corn acreage.

Retail EBITDA improved to US$44 million from a loss of US$8 million.

Meanwhile, wholesale sales fell to US$649 million from US$867million on lower realized selling prices, but was partially offset by higher potashsales volumes due to higher utilization rates in the first three months of the year.

The company reduced its CapEx to US$174 million from US$399 million.CapEx for the remaining three quarters of the year is expected to range from US$600million to US$700 million.

For the year, the company expects to book diluted earnings pershare between US$5.25 to US$6.25, lower than the previous estimate of US$5.50 to US$7.00, due to a challengingpricing environment for all nutrients and expectations for a stronger Canadian dollar.

Assumptions for the revised guidance include nitrogen productionof 3.5 million tonnes to 3.7 million tonnes, potash output of 2.3 million tonnesto 2.4 million tonnes, retail EBITDA of US$1.08 billion to US$1.18 billion, andcrop nutrient sales of 9.8 million tonnes to 10.3 million tonnes.