Shareholders approve Agrium-Potash merger

Agrium-Potash Merger – the merger of fertilizer producers Agrium Inc. (TSE:AGU, Mkt cap 18.13B, P/E 18.12, Div/yield 1.14/3.60, EPS 7.01, Shares 138.18M) and Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc (TSE:POT, Mkt cap 19.17B, P/E 29.82, Div/yield 0.13/2.34, EPS 0.76, Shares 839.64M) is a step closer after both companies’ shareholders voted in favor of the plan.

Agrium-Potash merger

Shareholders approve Agrium-Potash merger

The proposed “merger of equals” was first announced on September 12, 2016, with the two companies saying that the merged group would be the largest crop nutrient company in the world and the third largest natural resource company in Canada.

PotashCorp shareholders will own approximately 52% of the combined company, with Agrium shareholders owning the remaining 48%.

In special shareholder meetings held on Thursday, the merger was supported by approximately 98% of the Agrium shares and voting options voted, and more than 99% of the PotashCorp shares voted.

“Today’s approval represents a key milestone in the process to combine our two companies and create a new world-class integrated global supplier of crop inputs and services,” commented Chuck Magro, president and CEO of Agrium. “In addition to generating compelling value for shareholders, the integrated platform established through this combination will create benefits for customers, suppliers, and employees of both companies. We look forward to realizing the upside potential ahead.”

Jochen Tilk, president and CEO of PotashCorp, added: “Together with Agrium, we will be even better positioned to grow and thrive in a highly-competitive global market with multiple paths for growth. We expect to generate significant value for shareholders and new opportunities for employees, while also better serving customers with low-cost, high-value products and services.”

The merger is expected to close mid-2017. It remains subject to various closing conditions, including regulatory clearance and final approval by the Canadian court.

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The opinions expressed here are ours alone. They are provided for information purposes only and are not tailored to the needs of any particular individual or company, are not an endorsement, recommendation, or sponsorship of any entity or security, and do not constitute investment advice. We strongly recommend that you seek advice from a qualified investment advisor before making any investment decision.

 

Strong Q4 secures profit increase for Agrium

Agrium Inc Vanscoy Mine

Strong Q4 secures profit increase for Agrium

The Calgary-based fertilizer producer and retailer saw US$200 million in the way of net income in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, an almost 400% rise from the $51 million a year earlier. The profit amounted to $1.45 per share, up from 33 cents in the fourth quarter of 2014.

For the full year, net income climbed by $268 million to $988 million or $6.98 per share, up from $4.97 in 2014.

That was despite the company seeing sales fall year-on-year, to $2.4 billion in the fourth quarter and $14.8 billion in 2015. That compared with $2.7 billion in sales in the fourth quarter of 2014 and $16 billion for all of 2014.

Agrium’s net income was above the estimate of $1.39 per share but sales were about $445 million below the consensus estimate compiled by Thomson Reuters.

“Agrium achieved a strong finish to 2015, despite lower nutrient prices and challenging commodity markets, commented Chuck Magro, Agrium’s President and CEO.

“A key differentiator for the company was our integrated strategy, which helped provide stability in our earnings. We also benefited from the proactive steps we took to further strengthen the company over the past year, including a renewed focus on execution and controlling our controllables.

“These benefits flowed through to our bottom line, helped us to generate $8.59 of free cash flow per share and drive increased returns to shareholders, while still investing in future earnings growth.”

For 2016, Agrium is estimating earnings per share of between US$5.50 and $7.

Agrium Inc. is a Calgary, AB-based producer and marketer of nutrients for agricultural and industrial markets. Agrium is a retailer of agricultural products and services in the United States, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay and a multi-national producer and wholesale marketer of nutrients for agricultural and industrial markets. The Company operates through its two business units: Retail and Wholesale. Agrium Wholesale owns 16 production facilities in North and South America across the nitrogen, potash and phosphate spectrum; two mines; and a distribution and storage network throughout North America and internationally through Agrium Europe. Agrium Retail operates approximately 1,375 retail locations, 57 terminals, 8 plants and 18 distribution centers in North and South America, as well as Australia. More from Reuters »

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The opinions expressed here are ours alone. They are provided for information purposes only and are not tailored to the needs of any particular individual or company, are not an endorsement, recommendation, or sponsorship of any entity or security, and do not constitute investment advice. We strongly recommend that you seek advice from a qualified investment advisor before making any investment decision.

 

Michael Sprung on BNN’s Market Call Tonight, April 28, 2015

Market Call Tonight – each weekday evening, Mark Bunting hosts top fund managers and market analysts – professionals who manage retail and institutional investment assets.

Market Call -Top Picks Michael Sprung Manulife Financial AGT Food Ingredients New Flyer Industries

Market Call – Top Picks from Michael Sprung: Manulife Financial, AGT Food and Ingredients, and New Flyer Industries

Market Call Outlook:

Global stock markets continue to advance despite investors’ concerns with respect to geopolitical turmoil in Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.  Since the financial crisis in 2008, total global debt has increased by over 40%, or $57 trillion.  This massive increase in debt has been a consequence of the low interest rate environment and various programs of quantitative easing by a number of central banks.  In Canada, consumer debt levels have been highlighted as a concern by government officials and the fallout of lower energy prices continues to reverberate through the economy.  Advancing markets have resulted in higher valuation levels.  Investors should be cautious in this environment but be prepared to take advantage of any pullbacks in the market.

Market Call Top Picks:

Manulife Financial Corp. (TSE:MFC, Mkt cap 43.48B, P/E 12.30, Div/yield 0.16/2.81, EPS 1.79, Shares 1.97B) Owned personally and by clients, Last Purchase: Dec 24 2014 $22.18

Manulife is a leading Canadian-based financial services group with operations in Asia, Canada and the United States.  Over the past five years, the company has made tremendous strides in de-risking the balance sheet and improving profitability through increasing wealth management operations as well as redirecting the mix of products sold.  The insurance companies will be amongst the beneficiaries should interest rates start to rise.  MFC has one of the strongest capital bases in the industry.  Going forward, we anticipate that core earnings growth will continue to stem from the Asian operations as well as from initiatives in the US and Canada.  With its strong capital base and improving profitability, dividend increases are likely within the next few quarters.  Manulife will be reporting earnings on May 7.

Read all of our reports on Manulife here>>

AGT Food and Ingredients Inc. (TSE:AGT, Mkt cap 598.21M, P/E 26.20, Div/yield 0.15/2.31, EPS 0.99, Shares 23.07M) Last Purchase Dec 18 2014 $26.50

AGT is a leader in pulse processing for export and domestic markets.  The company has had notable success in diversifying into food ingredients, an area that is facing increasing global demand.  2016 has been declared by the United Nations to be the International Year of the Pulse.  This designation will serve to highlight the opportunities for AGT as demand for pulse ingredients expands.

Read all of our reports on AGT Food and Ingredients here>>

New Flyer Industries Inc (TSE:NFI, Mkt cap 784.31M, P/E 24.95, Div/yield -/4.20, EPS 0.56, Shares 55.51M) Owned by clients, Last Purchase: Dec 18 2014 $12.80

New Flyer Industries manufactures and assembles transit buses in Canada and the US as well as providing after market services.  The company has been a consolidator in North America and is well positioned to participate in fleet renewals.  Pricing has been improving and the Company’s backlog has been expanding.  New Flyer will be a beneficiary of the improving economy in the US and the strong US dollar as about 80% of their revenues stem from the US

Read all of our reports on New Flyer here>>

See Top Picks from Michael Sprung: Manulife Financial, AGT Food and Ingredients, and New Flyer Industries on the Market Call Tonight page.

Market Call Top Pick Sales:

Agrium Inc. (TSE:AGU, Mkt cap 17.97B, P/E 18.77, Div/yield 0.98/3.12, EPS 6.71, Shares 143.74M) We scaled back holdings in a number of accounts where weight had become larger than desired due to recent price appreciation.  Still owned in many accounts.Sold at $143.12 on February 24, 2015. View previous reports here>>

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We believe successful investors must challenge the market consensus by maintaining an independent point of view.

Like to learn more? Please contact us here>>

The opinions expressed here are ours alone. They are provided for information purposes only and are not tailored to the needs of any particular individual or company, are not an endorsement, recommendation, or sponsorship of any entity or security, and do not constitute investment advice. We strongly recommend that you seek advice from a qualified investment advisor before making any investment decision.

 

Michael Sprung on BNN Market Call, February 25, 2015

Top Pick Sales:

Agrium Inc. (TSE:AGU, Mkt cap 20.54B, P/E 19.86, Div/yield 0.97/2.71, EPS 7.25, Shares 143.73M) We scaled back in a few accounts where weight had become larger than desired due to recent price appreciation.  Still owned in many accounts.Sold at $143.12 on February 24, 2014.

Market CallTop Picks Michael Sprung Royal Bank

Top Picks:

Royal Bank of Canada (TSE:RY, Mkt cap 112.31B, P/E 12.97, Div/yield 0.75/3.85, EPS 6.01, Shares 1.44B) Owned by clients, Last Purchase September 10, 2014: $81.15

The Royal Bank is Canada's largest financial institution with extensive domestic and wealth operations as well as global capital markets, custody and brokerage networks.  The positive results in the most recent quarter are illustrative of the strength of a well diversified and managed company.  Longer term, we expect  Royal Bank to prosper and provide further dividend enhancements.

HudBay Minerals Inc. (TSE:HBM, Mkt cap 2.49B, P/E – , Div/yield 0.01/0.19, EPS -0.25, Shares 233.62M) Owned by clients, Last Purchase September 10, 2014: $10.96
 HudBay Minerals is one of Canada's leading producers of zinc, copper and precious metals with operations in Canada, Peru and the US.  Constancia, a major copper-molybdenum-silver mine in Peru, will be ramping up production over 2015.  With other project coming onstream over the next few years, we anticipate that valuation levels will increase.

Aecon Group Inc (TSE:ARE, Mkt cap 665.52M, P/E 21.44, Div/yield 0.09/3.05, EPS 0.55, Shares 56.45M) Owned by clients, Last Purchase December 1, 2014, $11.57
Aecon Group is one of Canada's largest construction companies.  A large portion of Aecon's business is related to the energy sector and the company's stock price has been under pressure as a result.  Over the last number of years, management has taken steps to strengthen the financial position of the company.  At current prices, the stock presents good value to investors for longer term appreciation.

Outlook:


Geopolitical concerns (Ukraine/Russia, ISIS in the Middle East, etc.) are still prevalent but investors' concerns  are becoming more focused on the fallout of weak oil prices, low inflation (possibly deflation), and, weak demand for goods and services.  The US dollar continues to dominate currency markets reflecting the relatively strong fundamentals of the US economy while the European and Japanese economies are weak and the growth in China has been less than expected.  While low oil prices may ultimately benefit oil importing countries,  oil exporters are feeling the pinch and Canada is no exception.  As the impact of the weakening energy sector reverberates throughout the Canadian economy, the stock market in Canada will continue to exhibit higher volatility for the next number of months.  During this period, investors would be well advised to to position their portfolios in companies with strong financial positions that will weather the storm and ultimately benefit from the opportunities presented by weaker companies' distress.

You can view this and previous Market Call interviews here>>

What is Successful Investing? Learn more here>>

Download Our Free Special Report – How to Hunt For Value Stocks. Michael Sprung will share with you 5 stocks set for long-term gains here>>

We believe that investment management is about managing risk, not chasing speculative returns.  

Like to learn more? Please contact us here>>

The opinions expressed here are ours alone. They are provided for information purposes only and are not tailored to the needs of any particular individual or company, are not an endorsement, recommendation, or sponsorship of any entity or security, and do not constitute investment advice. We strongly recommend that you seek advice from a qualified investment advisor before making any investment decision.

 

Stockwatch – Michael Sprung on BNN Market Call

Stockwatch – Outlook

We had previously stated that compelling valuations were getting harder to find from which we concluded that market prices were running ahead of fundamentals.  In September, commodities and stock markets reacted negatively to the perceived slowing of the emerging economies and the ongoing stagnation in Europe.  The decline in energy and materials weighed on Canadian stocks and the Canadian dollar.  The US economy continues to exhibit signs of growth and this will eventually have positive impact on the Canadian economy.  As valuations correct, investors should be prepared to invest in quality securities.

Stockwatch Michael Sprung market outlook stock picks Mark Bunting BNN

Stockwatch – Michael Sprung discusses his market outlook and stock picks with Mark Bunting on BNN

Stockwatch – Top Picks

Stockwatch – Bank of Nova Scotia, Owned by clients, last purchase September 4, 2014: $71.75

The Bank of Nova Scotia (TSE:BNS, Mkt cap 83.27B, P/E 11.68, Div/yield 0.66/3.86, EPS 5.86, Shares 1.22B) is the most international of the Canadian banks with branches in the Caribbean, Central and South America.  The Canadian banks have been impacted by recent market declines.  BNS is now selling at levels that long-term investors should find attractive.  The dividend yield is now 3.9%.

Stockwatch – Agrium, owned by clients, last purchase June 24, 2014: $99.64

Agrium Inc. (TSE:AGU, Mkt cap 13.65B, P/E 14.88, Div/yield 0.84/3.54, EPS 6.36, Shares 144.00M) Low crop prices and slowing economies have caused the short term outlook for fertilizer prices to diminish and hence the decline in the prices of fertilizer stocks.  Agrium recently lowered their short-term guidance in both the retail and wholesale sectors.  The price of the stock has overcompensated for these events thus making the stock attractive for long-term investors.

Stockwatch – Suncor, Owned by clients, last purchase March 4, 2014:$36.70

Suncor Energy Inc. (TSE:SU, Mkt cap 54.79B, P/E 14.53, Div/yield 0.28/2.99, EPS 2.58, Shares 1.47B) is Canada’s largest integrated oil and gas company.  Suncor: has a strong production base with quality long-term assets, a strong balance sheet, and an integrated business model smoothing to some extent the cash flow from the various business segments.  The recent pressure on energy prices has caused the energy related stocks to pull back significantly.  Suncor has the financial strength and diversified base of operations to do well and maintain its dividend that currently produces a 3% yield.

You can see Michael interviewed by Mark Bunting on BNN’s Market Call here>>
Download Our Free Special Report – How to Hunt For Value Stocks. Michael Sprung will share with you 5 stocks set for long-term gains.

Is Your Stock Broker Acting in Your Best Interest? Read more here>>

Exchange Traded Funds Expose Investors to Unexpected Risks. Read more here>>

Investment Management – Risk vs. Return. Read more here>>

We believe successful investors must challenge the market consensus by maintaining an independent point of view. Like to learn more? Please contact us here>>

The opinions expressed here are ours alone. They are provided for information purposes only and are not tailored to the needs of any particular individual or company, are not an endorsement, recommendation, or sponsorship of any entity or security, and do not constitute investment advice. We strongly recommend that you seek advice from a qualified investment advisor before making any investment decision.

 

Stockwatch – Michael Sprung on BNN

Stockwatch – Michael Sprung discusses his market outlook and stock picks with Mark Bunting on BNN

Mark Bunting:          Now having said all that and maybe time to take some profits, so that’s what our next guest has been doing in a couple of stocks that have had some big run ups. He feels we maybe headed for a correction in the U.S. and Canada. Let’s find out more. We have Michael Sprung here, president of Sprung Investment Management. He joined us here in the studio, good to see you as always Michael.

Michael Sprung:        Good to be here, thank you very much.

Mark Bunting:          We’ve had so many people calling for a correction of 10% or more for a long time, we haven’t seen it. Why are you convinced that we have to have to one?

Michael Sprung market outlook stock picks Mark Bunting BNN

Michael Sprung discusses his market outlook and stock picks with Mark Bunting on BNN

Michael Sprung:        Well, it’s not that we have to have one. We at least have to have a pause in here. Now, whether we see a 10% or 15% pull back, I don’t think it’s likely to be a very sudden jerk response but I think we could see a deterioration in the market over the next number of months simply because, as value investors, we don’t really look at the macroeconomics environment all that much but we have to be aware of it. It’s getting harder and harder for us to find stocks that we think we really want to purchase and there’s a lot of tell tale signs out there that the market is closer to a top or at least the upside potential from today’s level in the immediate future. Probably, it’s not as great as perhaps the downside could be in a lot of circumstances.

Over the last, while we’ve seen much more retail participation in the market. That’s usually a sign that people are weighing more into equities and certainly we’ve seen that much more in the last year or so.

Mark Bunting:          And taking more risk?

Michael Sprung:        Taking more risk too. We’ve seen rotation into smaller cap stocks more, not necessarily lower quality, but certainly higher out on the risk profiles. So, if you look at the averages in the U.S. you’ll see the much broader averages like the Russell which include a lot of the smaller stocks are running way, way ahead of the S&P and so on.

We’ve seen much more in the way of IPOs and mergers easily eaten up again largely in a retail environment. This is all out of time when I think a lot of it is being fed by the low interest rate environment that we’ve been in. Also people are using more margin which is always a dangerous sign.

In our view, interest rates really can’t go too much lower. If you look at all the moves that the Central Banks have made since 2008, they’ve largely been somewhat inflationary and yet we have not seen inflation come into the picture really yet, although we have seen an acceleration and rate of inflation in Canada more recently.

Mark Bunting:          Right. Just give us short answers here before we get to your picks, but which sectors are overvalued and where have you have taken profits?

Michael Sprung:        Well, we took some profits in Precision Drilling (TSE:PD) for instance. There are a number of stocks in the energy area that we’ve had really significant gains on where we’re looking at pairing back a little bit just to have some off the table. Materials just recently have had a bit of a lift that yes they had been depressed for some period of time. We don’t own any railroads anymore. Railroads have sort of run on the gambits that they can do so much better than GDP and yes they have picked up share and they’ve come from the lowest and there’s been improvements and operating efficiencies.

Overall companies, I think profits look high but that’s on the back of some significant cost cutting and perhaps lower wage rates than what existed prior.

Mark Bunting:          Right. Okay. So, your picks today, Agrium, Northwest Company, and New Flyer, let’s start with Agrium.

Michael Sprung:        Sure, Agrium Inc. (TSE:AGU), we think that you know you can buy that under a $100. It’s a well diversified agricultural play. The agricultural stocks have not kept pace with the base metals or even the precious metals lately, so they’ve sort of lagged. There’s been less demand for potash certainly, and potash prices have been depressed. We like Agrium because it’s a little bit more diversified and we think that you know if you can buy at anywhere between $96, $98, even you know up to $99, it has fairly good upside with more limited downside risk from here.

Mark Bunting:          Okay, and North West Company?

Michael Sprung:        North West Company Inc (TSE:NWC) is one that is certainly significantly pulled back from its highs. It was as high as $29 in the not too distant past. We’ve been able to buy it for under $25 and it’s a good solid yield play. We think that because their markets are somewhat protected, although they do operate in some areas that have been a little bit more depressed. The far north, there hasn’t been the actual mining activity that there was before. But as we see though the demand for those materials pick up and the acceleration of economic activity there, it will do better.

Mark Bunting:          Just a quick thought on New Flyer, it pays a handsome dividend.

Michael Sprung:        New Flyer Industries Inc (TSE:NFI) pays a handsome dividend. They have acquired a lot of the competition in North America. They still do have competition out there, but the one thing that is really evident is that a lot of municipalities and have to start replacing their fleets of buses and transportation. New Flyer, I think will certainly benefit from that.

Mark Bunting:          Nice looking chart, thanks Michael, good to see you.

Michael Sprung:        Thank you.

Mark Bunting:          Okay. Michael Sprung, president of Sprung Investment Management.

See Michael Sprung on BNN here>>

BNN Top Stock Picks and Market Outlook

BNN Top Stock Picks and Market Outlook : Market Call : September 04, 2013

We anticipate a challenging environment in the final months of 2013.  Middle East tensions are escalating while concerns regarding the apparent slower growth in the emerging economies work together to confuse investor sentiment.  Closer to home, fears of  the effect tapering of the US Federal Reserve’s easing will have on the capital markets and speculation as to the direction the Reserve may take under new leadership, adds to investor discomfort.  Disciplined investors will be taking advantage of market setbacks in this period as they position portfolios for the years ahead.

With interest rates rising, investors are re-evaluation their risk. We are pleased to offer qualified* investors our free portfolio review. It will help you to understand if your portfolio  matches your personal risk tolerance. Ask us how>>

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (TSE:CM)

Market cap 32.84B, P/E 10.00, Div/yield 0.96/4.68, EPS 8.21, Shares outstanding 399.99M, Last Purchase: $78.90, Date: March 27, 2013, Owned Personally and by Clients. Company website:  https://www.cibc.com/ca

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce

The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce posted positive results across all its major business lines.

The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce is the fifth largest Canadian bank by deposits. The bank’s two strategic business units, CIBC World Markets and CIBC Retail Markets, also have international operations in the United States, the Caribbean, Asia and the United Kingdom. The company ranks at number 172 on the Forbes Global 2000 listing. CIBC was named the strongest bank in Canada and North America, and the 3rd strongest bank in the world, by Bloomberg Markets magazine, in May 2012.

The banks have just finished reporting their third quarter results for the current fiscal year.  For the most part, results exceeded expectations.  The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in particular posted positive results across all its major business lines.  The company earned C$890 million ($848.75 million), or C$2.16 a share, in the fiscal third quarter ending July 31. That compared with a profit of C$841 million, or C$2.00 a share, in Q3 2012. While some uncertainty remains regarding the future of their Aeroplan business, the stock continues to sell at a discount despite its industry leading profitability and strong capital base.

Suncor Energy Inc. (TSE:SU)

Market cap 54.17B, P/E 19.97, Div/yield 0.20/2.22, EPS 1.81, Shares outstanding 1.50B, Last Purchase $31.02, Date March 19, 2013, Owned by clients. Company website:  http://www.suncor.com

Suncor is Canada’s largest integrated oil and gas company. The Company is focused on developing petroleum resources in Canada’s Athabasca oil sands. The Company also explores, acquires, develops, produces and markets crude oil and natural gas in Canada and internationally, and the Company transports and refines crude oil, and market petroleum and petrochemical products primarily in Canada. The Company operates under three segments: oil sands, exploration and production, and refining and marketing. It also markets third-party petroleum products and conducts energy-trading activities focused principally on the marketing and trading of crude oil, natural gas and by-products.

In mid-August Warren Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. revealed in a U.S. regulatory filing that he has accumulated 17.8-million shares in Suncor Energy Inc. His investment is worth $640-million at the current share price.

Suncor is a core holding in our clients’ portfolios. It’s a significant validation to see other investors, including Mr. Buffett, the world’s bet know value investor, finally beginning to appreciate the compelling attributes of Suncor. These include a strong production base with quality long-term assets, a strong balance sheet, and an integrated business model smoothing to some extent the cash flow from the various business segments.

Agrium Inc. (TSE:AGU)

Market cap 13.13B, P/E 9.24, Div/yield 0.52/2.32, EPS 9.62, Shares outstanding 147.66M, Last Purchase $96.55, Date: May 5, 2013, Owned by clients. Company website:   http://www.agrium.com

Agrium Inc Vanscoy Mine

Agrium Inc’s Vanscoy Mine – Agrium is well priced at current levels to provide a well-balanced vehicle to get exposure to the positive long-term attractive fundamentals in this industry.

Agrium is a global producer and marketer of nutrients for agricultural and industrial markets. The Company operates through its three business units: retail, wholesale and advanced technologies (AAT). AAT uses three production methods: coating methods, in which fertilizers are encapsulated to provide a desired release profile; reacted slow release production, where urea is combined with other nitrogen elements to produce a slow release profile; and the packaging and blending of fertilizers.

All of the stocks in this segment have been depressed with weakening prices and uncertain near-term demand.  Agrium is well priced at current levels to provide a well-balanced vehicle to get exposure to the positive long-term attractive fundamentals in this industry.  The company has a multi-product line in all three major nutrients as well as a retail segment that exhibits lower earning volatility often offsetting weaker periods in the wholesale segment.

We are pleased to offer qualified* investors our free portfolio review. It will help you to understand if your portfolio matches your personal risk tolerance. Ask us how>>

*Canadian residents with a minimum $500,000 portfolio.

See Michael discuss these stocks with Michael Hainsworth on BNN Market Call here>>