Agrium to consolidate three divisions down to wholesale, retail

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Fertilizer and ag retail company Agrium said Wednesday it will restructure its three divisions into two business units, wholesale and retail, in the first quarter of 2014 as it moves to become more efficient.

Following a recently-completed strategic review of its Agrium Advanced Technologies (AAT) business unit, Agrium said it decided to transfer AAT’s agriculture business to the wholesale division.

AAT’s ag business — which includes its Environmentally Smart Nitrogen (ESN) product line and its micronutrient operations — had been part of the wholesale arm before the AAT business unit’s creation in 2007, the company noted.

The remaining parts of AAT — its turf and ornamental, and direct solutions businesses — will undergo further review, and could possibly be sold, the company said. That review is expected to be complete in the first half of this year.

Agrium pledged ESN in particular “will remain a key premium product (for the company), given the strong growth in demand for this industry-leading and environmentally-friendly product.”

ESN is a polymer-coated, controlled-release fertilizer pellet meant to spread a crop’s feeding over an entire season and limit nitrogen volatilization, denitrification and leaching.

AAT’s micronutrient arm (AMP) markets “secondary” crop nutrient preparations including elements such as iron, zinc, manganese, copper and boron.

AAT was the smallest of Agrium’s three divisions.

Richard Downey, Agrium’s vice-president for investor and corporate relations, said the company hadn’t yet determined how many jobs would be cut, but some business support functions based in Colorado “will disappear.”

In November, Calgary-based Agrium reported a sharply lower third-quarter profit and a disappointing forecast for the fourth quarter.

Uncertainty in fertilizer markets, combined with a late North America growing season, caused many buyers to delay purchases of crop nutrients.

Downey said the reorganization had nothing to do with pressure from activist investor Jana Partners. Jana, which at one point was Agrium’s largest shareholder, pushed for a breakup of the company last year, and has since cut its stake in the company. — Reuters/AGCanada.com Network Staff

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