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Grain handler's profits up

Winnipeg-based Ag Growth International achieved record-setting results in the fourth quarter.

The company, with manufacturing facilities across Western Canada and the U.S. Midwest, had a 47 per cent jump in fourth-quarter sales to $88 million and an 194 per cent spike in fourth-quarter operating profit (EBITDA) to $13.9 million.

The company, which manufactures portable grain-handling equipment including augers, belt conveyors, storage bins, handling accessories, aeration equipment and drying systems had recorded record sales in the fourth quarter in every market it's in.

Sales of commercial grain-handling equipment increased substantially compared to 2012 due to robust domestic demand and a significant increase in international business.

AGI's international business increased 29 per cent compared to the prior year.

Sales for the full year ending Dec. 31, 2013 were up 14 per cent to $358.3 million, EBITDA was up 24 per cent to $61.2 million and net profit for the year was up 31 per cent to $22.6 million.

AGI shares closed up 86 cents on Wednesday to $48.00.


Retailer boosts Q4 sales

The North West Company has reported a 4.2 per cent jump in sales and a 2.2 per cent increase in profit for the final three months of its 2013 fiscal year.

The Winnipeg-based retail chain said sales for the three months that ended on Jan. 31 climbed to $402.9 million from $386.6 million in the fourth quarter of the previous fiscal year.

Net earnings for the quarter rose to $15.9 million from $15.5 million, while diluted earnings per share were unchanged at 32 cents.

"Our international performance reflects gains we have made in reducing product costs and a general improvement in economic conditions," said Edward Kennedy, the company's president and CEO.

"In Canada, the retail market continues to be more challenged and we are responding with more innovation in getting sales and in building our store network capability."

The slightly stronger fourth-quarter results helped to boost net income for the year by 0.6 per cent to $64.3 million from $63.9 million in fiscal 2012. Earnings per share were unchanged at $1.32.

North West operates a total of 226 stores under the Northern, NorthMart and Giant Tiger banners in Canada, AC Value Center in Alaska, and Cost-U-Less in the South Pacific and Caribbean.


Mint makes Botswana coin

The Royal Canadian Mint in Winnipeg is back making coins for Botswana after a 23-year hiatus.

The Mint said Wednesday the Winnipeg plant recently produced a series of new multi-ply, plated-steel coins for the African country. The new coins were officially launched on Feb. 27.

The facility's new multi-ply, plated-steel technology enables it to alternate layers of metals, such as nickel, copper and brass, over a steel core to produce a more durable coin.

The plant, which completed a major expansion last year, now produces more than one billion circulation coins each year as well as special-circulation and collector coins.

Ministers to move grain

The Manitoba government has tasked four cabinet ministers to monitor federal measures aimed at easing a rail-transportation backlog that has left grain in bins across the Prairies.

The province says the ministers are to make sure the farmers get access to rail cars as they become available. They are also to make sure farmers in flood-prone areas get their grain moved and to help others in finding alternate storage for grain that might be at risk.

Meanwhile, federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt told delegates at a rural municipality conference in Regina on Wednesday the railways will be hard-pressed to meet the federal targets.

Last week, the federal government said it was forcing Canada's two main railway companies to double the amount of grain they ship in a week.

If CP and CN Rail don't meet that target, they face fines of up to $100,000 a day.

"It actually pushes them to their limit," said Raitt.

"It's the highest amount that they've ever moved in terms of grain. They have not achieved this on a continuous basis, so we are pushing them. (But) there's a certain point where if you push too hard, the chain will break down."

Raitt promised the government will monitor the situation carefully.

Delegate Arlynn Kurtz suggested any fines imposed on the railways should go to farmers and not the federal government.

Another farmer, Louie McCaffrey, suggested the potential fine of $100,000 a day is not enough.

"It should be millions," he said.

Rail companies have said moving the biggest grain crop in history has been hampered by extreme cold.

— Staff, The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 13, 2014 B6

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