Canada Agrium's strong Q4 argues against split-up – analyst

22 February 2013 15:53  [Source: ICIS news]

TORONTO (ICIS)--The long-running battle to split up Canada-based fertilizer major Agrium is not likely to succeed following the company’s strong 2012 Q4 and full-year results, an analyst said on Friday.

Agrium’s largest shareholder, Jana Partners, wants Agrium to split off its retail business to create more shareholder value. Agrium is fighting that move.

In results released late Thursday, Agrium reported that its retail business achieved record 2012 Q4 earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of $124m (€94m), up 55% year on year. Full-year retail EBITDA was up 24% to $951m.

“[The results] will certainly not help Jana,” said Don Lato, president of Toronto-based Padlock Investment Management.

“Agrium has certainly garnered more support with these results” as it heads for a proxy battle against Jana at Agrium's upcoming annual meeting in April, Lato added.

“One of the attractions of Agrium is the diversification within its business. It allows me to participate in the sector for my clients without having the worries of a pure [fertilizer] commodity play,” Lato said.

However, Lato said that Jana’s fight against Agrium over the past months helped shareholders as Agrium responded by providing more disclosure about the retail business.

Also, earlier this month Agrium changed its board of directors, adding two directors with retail experience, Lato said.

During the company's earnings results conference call on Friday, CEO Mike Wilson said that Agrium continued to disagree with Jana.

Wilson limited his remarks to the results and would not talk about Jana. However, he said that Agrium’s decision to move up its annual meeting to April was prompted by a desire to finally put an end to Jana’s dispute with the company.

($1 = €0.76)

By: Stefan Baumgarten
+1 713 525 2653

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