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Nutrien Ltd. increased its earnings forecast for the year Wednesday after announcing job cuts at its Vanscoy potash operation in Saskatchewan earlier in the day.

The fertilizer giant said the job cuts will take place in the fourth quarter this year and include about 30 staff and 50 hourly positions.

The changes are meant to make the Vanscoy operations more efficient as it looks for synergies following the merger of Potash Corp. and Agrium Inc. to form Nutrien at the start of the year, the company said.

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Nutrien said in its second-quarter results out Wednesday that it had achieved US$246-million in synergies as of the end of June, up from the US$150-million it said it had achieved as of March.

The company said it now expects to achieve cost savings of US$350-million by the end of the year, up from the US$250-million it initially estimated. The company is targeting eventual ongoing cost savings of US$500-million.

Increased sales expectations for its key fertilizers had the company revise its adjusted earnings guidance to $2.40 to $2.70 per share, up from $2.20 to $2.60 per share.

“We have raised our annual guidance due to firm market fundamentals; this, combined with our rapid pace of synergy realization and a strong balance sheet, will provide us with numerous options to enhance shareholder value,” said company CEO Chuck Magro in a statement.

The company said it has excluded from the guidance the estimated US$50 to US$75-million in costs related to achieving the synergies.

The global potash industry has struggled in recent years as increased competition has put significant pressure on prices for the fertilizer, though tighter supplies and increase demand have helped prices recently.

Nutrien said it had net earnings of US$741-million for the three months ending June 30 from continuing operations, for diluted net earnings of $1.17 per share.

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The company said it has provided opportunities throughout the year for Vanscoy employees to transition to other roles, and will provide severance packages and transition programs for affected employees.

The Vanscoy potash mine and processing plant will have about 585 employees following the latest cuts.

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