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Michael Wilson, president and chief executive officer of Agrium.


Fertilizer producer Agrium Inc. reports its profit jumped nearly fivefold in the latest quarter as the company benefited from a special gain and a 52-per-cent rise in revenue.

Calgary-based Agrium reported Thursday it earned $293-million (U.S.) or $1.85 a share in the third quarter ended Sept. 30.

That was up from $61-million or 39 cents a year earlier.

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Strong performance in the company's retail business helped sales grow 52 per cent to just over $3.1-billion from about $2.1-billion.

Agrium reports in U.S. dollars.

"Results from our retail business were particularly strong this quarter, as we achieved record sales and our second highest earnings for a third quarter," president and chief executive officer Mike Wilson said in a release before stock markets opened.

"Agrium's wholesale results were also the second highest on record for a third quarter, due to yet another quarter of excellent margins supported by strong crop nutrient prices. We expect the strength in our business to extend through the fall application season and into 2012, due to the continuation of tight agricultural fundamentals providing economic incentive for growers to optimize crop acreage, yields and crop inputs."

The 2011 third quarter results included a pre-tax gain of $1-million on natural gas and other hedge positions and a pre-tax recovery of $46-million on share-based payments expense.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were on average expecting earnings of $2.01 per share and revenues of $3.1-billion.

Agrium produces the three main types of fertilizer: nitrogen, phosphate and potash. It also sells farm products at retail outlets across North America, with a growing presence in South America and Australia.

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In September, Agrium announced it had signed a long-term phosphate rock supply agreement with global producer OCP S.A. to supply its Redwater, Alta., phosphate plant. Financial terms of the supply deal were not disclosed.

Acquisitions have been a key part of Agrium's growth strategy. In July, Agrium said it had agreed to buy Vancouver-based turf products maker Evergro Canada for US$50-million.

Last December, Agrium closed a $1.1-billion to buy Australian grain marketer AWB Ltd.

Shortly thereafter, Agrium sold a large chunk of AWB to U.S. agribusiness giant Cargill Inc. Agrium was mostly drawn to AWB's retail business, and decided to shed the grain trading and handling portion of the company.

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