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Agrium warns harsh winter, lack of rail cars to limit first-quarter profit

The Agrium head office is seen in this file photo.

Jeff McIntosh/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Agrium Inc. is warning the harsh winter and limited rail car availability will reduce the Calgary-based agriculture company profit in the first quarter.

The company said in a news release on Wednesday per-share profit for the first three months of the year will be just above the break-even point.

Analysts had been calling a profit of 53 cents (CDN) a share when the maker of fertilizer and chemicals reports financial results on May 6.

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Agrium said the slow start to the spring planting and fertilizing season will hit its wholesale division, and to a lesser extent, the retail side.

A failure of a boiler at Agrium's nitrogen factory in Caresland, Alta., will also limit the amount of urea and ammonia Agrium has for sale. Repairs are expected to be completed by late May.

The coldest winter in years has dampened economic activity across the Canadian West, slowing freight train traffic and causing a backlog of grains. Industries including forest products and food exporters have complained the rail infrastructure was unprepared for the extreme cold.

Railways say the delays were unavoidable, and they were forced to run shorter trains at slower speeds for safety reasons.

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